Award-winning poet Cheryl Moskowitz announces the results of the first Carers UK creative writing competition.
Judging this competition for Carers UK has been a privilege and an education. There were over 300 stories and poems submitted which I have carried around with me for the past few weeks, reading and re-reading, and I will continue to carry many of those in my head for a good while yet. ‘Things are not what they seem’ was the overwhelming message from almost all the entries – eloquent and powerful pleas not to judge situations on how they initially appear. The entries in both sections boast some startling writing and challenging material. We are invited to view the world of caring from a variety of real and imagined perspectives and consider afresh our definitions and expectations of love, relationships and responsibility. We are made to laugh and cry, and to think differently and deeply.
The highly commended stories include The World of Caring, a whistle-stop journey through the day of a parent carer, highlighting the joys as well as the difficulties, and Wheelchair Candy and In My Dreams, which both beautifully depict those rare and blissful moments where a carer can let go of their caring responsibilities and simply exist as loving wife or proud mother.
In the prize-winning categories, 3rd place goes to the highly original Starting Block that will leave you with a smile on your face and a whole new way of viewing autism. 2nd prize is awarded to Sir Galahad, an assured piece of writing which demonstrates what a powerful weapon love can be when pitted against trauma. Clouds wins first prize for its light and humorous touch, deceptively simple language, and an authentic depiction of the experience of dementia from the points of view of both the carer and the cared for.
Choosing the poetry shortlist was difficult and it was ultimately impossible to select three individual prize-winners, so I have awarded joint prizes in all three places. As well as the prize-winning and highly commended, there is one poem I wish to single out for a special mention. A young carer is the poem I hoped I would find amongst the huge pile I was presented with – an important reminder of the ordinariness and the extraordinariness of the carer’s role. It is simple and to the point, poignant, witty, important and true. Everyone should read it.
Sharing 3rd place is the almost prayer-like By Candle and the perfectly formed Kindness. Both share precision and brevity and a careful choice of words, demanding to be read aloud, again and again. In 2nd place are Motherhood and Still life. Motherhood is inspired by the photographs of Diane Arbus whose mother and child portraits were never comfortable – the poem contains beauty and wisdom and moves me in a new way each time I read it. Still Life is a well crafted portrait of a couple in care, a celebration of life and memories. And finally, in joint 1st place are two very different poems, equally excellent. Muesli has some of A Young Carer’s simplicity but also manages to conjure a real person, whole and fully fleshed out, despite the diminishing life it describes. Lovely. To understand Chipone is a poem that floated to the top of my list on each sifting. It is a poem that plays with language and evokes longing. Words and images rub up against one another in search of sense, just as people must when they undertake to be there for one another despite difficulty. We knock against one another, miss each other and struggle to regain hold.
Clouds by Val Ormrod
Sir Galahad by Susan Rouell
Starting Block by Susan Ashworth
The winning poems
A young carer by Kauser Parveen
In Memory of Pat by Sue Norton
Higglers’ Green by Peter Branson
Great Grand-daughter by Sue Norton
Hoodie by Liz de Cruz
Patty Clare’s Place by Beth McDonough
Triumph walk by Alice S. Yousef
China Doll by Mantz Yorke
Meredith by Tora Rushby
Bedtime Ritual by Val Ormrod
When you baked by Jonathan Totman
Reminder by Terry Simpson
Soup by Jonathan Totman
Baby Scratcher’s bedtime routine by David Pierce
Her Small Breath by Jude Neale
Raised Beds by Robert Miles