Three memorable poems have been selected from 22 poets and 32 poems, and our congratulations go to them all, and our thanks to everyone who entered.
The judge commented:
“Reading the poems was, throughout, a thoroughly rewarding task with Exmoor evoked in all its rich sweep of wilderness, characters, skies, towns, histories and wildlife. There was particularly interesting work on contemporary life under the real and metaphorical dark skies and, in a year where we have had much time and reason to contemplate, many poems reflected on the past vividly and at times, mysteriously and mystically.
There was so much observant detail that by the end I felt I had rambled, galloped, thought, felt and healed … and finally I came up with the winners.”
Wolf Moon Over Exmoor* by Dora Allen
As I drove through the darkening night,
I felt a distant lupine aching.
Alone on the road, alone at home
Travelling the ancient Pilgrim’s Way
Past Raleigh’s Cross to the steep hill brow
Without warning, by creeping stealth it
Showed Somerset’s patchwork perfection
Spread below its bright luminescence.
This giant orb of polarized light
From the ancient Farmer’s Almanac
Held a mirror to my inner wolf:
I bayed out emotions unrestrained,
Craving company, finding fury
The rapacious hunger of solitude
Crystalised in plain moonlit relief
At the very peak of my descent
I became wolfish, savage and hungry;
Starved of what I needed, I howled aloud.
Then, quietly, yet ever watchful
The wolf disappeared.
Hidden by the lucent woodlands
Exmoor moonlight shone like a beacon,
Starkly reflecting the reminder
That craving is the cry of survival
*The January full moon is referred to as the Wolf Moon as it was the time when wolves were at their most savage: starved over the lean winter months and their howling by the wolf moon signalled a dangerous hunger that needed to be fed. The covid-19 pandemic has caused similar feelings for many – starved of company and the usual human interactions that many crave and need to survive. The startling, yet wonderful sight of the wolf moon over Exmoor during this time came as a reminder that sometimes emotions need to be acknowledged and walked with, and that, on occasion it is just that we walk with our wolves.
Blood Brothers by Adrian Evans
This poem is designed to be performed, with each line spoken in turn, voice one then voice two. Distinct voices ensure the listener links the lines for each character. Two stories told at once.
Voice One: Dressed casually wearing stags head and antlers
Voice Two: Dressed casually but with a black bowler hat and binoculars
They stand back to back
But when they speak together they turn to face each other and look into each other’s eyes.
As it gets towards the end the Harbourer in the bowler looks down
The man/boy with the antlers looks up
The Molland Stag leaves his wood
And heads for his favourite orchard
The night-time scent in his nostrils
For company, the roding snipe
The Harbourer lights his night candle
Dreams of the chase, of venison for supper
Tobacco draped like a veil
Alone, save the sexton beetle in his boots
Their lives gravely entwined
|The stag makes his bed in the bracken|
His belly full of apples
Sienna flanks speckled with sunlight
The blackbird sings his lullaby
|The Harbourer smooths his counterpane|
His breakfast of kippers
The sun glints his pocket watch
The Master plays his tune
|Without each other there is no other|
|This morning our stag sleeps|
He dreams of acorns and hinds
Massive antlers rest on his back
Spiders string their gossamer between brow, bay and trey
|The Harbourer brushes his bowler hat|
Anticipating the chase ahead
Responsibility heavy on his shoulders
A last dawn check of the wood. Slots in, not out!
|Together for the greater good?|
|The tufters quarter the coppice|
And raise the stag from his nest
He tries to put up another
(Sadly) But this is his day
|Now at his master’s side|
Sherry in hand
Is his work in vain?
(Happily) But this is his day
|Across a crowded field their eyes meet|
|How do you know me?|
I trusted you whilst I slept
In my prime
(Head up) Holder of verity
|This is the stag|
He watched from the shadows
A warrantable beast
Betrayer of secrets (eyes down)
Exmoor: the daily morning miracle by John Gallas
So I put on my pants and stump outside. It’s true –
the light is back – dim in the holly copse,
blinking in colours on crackled stubble-tops
by Hoar Oak Batch, and pale in furrows through
Beet Field, like spilled white paint. Three cut-out magpies
stare at the sky from Tidball’s foggy gate;
violet-pated turnips peer from a crate.
The world has sprung its daily, grand surprise.
I hurry, amazed, down Teazel Lane, where
the dazzled thornheads and a single daffodil
punctuate the morning miracle
with exclamations in the brightening air.
I walk the turning world to Ruddock Rise.
Six-Spots reel the furze; the sudden season
seems to reach perfection without reason;
As earth rolls out its daily, grand surprise.