Thank you to everyone who entered our creative writing competition 2016 which was proudly supported by Specsavers Healthcall. We welcomed poems and short stories on all aspects of caring – the joys, challenges and complex emotions that come with looking after a loved one.
We are thankful to the following organisations for promoting the competition: The Poetry Society, The Reading Agency, Mslexia, The Poetry Library, The Poetry School, Poetry London and The Society of Authors. We would also like to thank Specsavers Healthcall and The Poetry Society for providing the prizes for the 2016 competition.
Report from our judge
Award-winning poet Cheryl Moskowitz describes the experience of judging the Carers UK creative writing competition for the third time.
I belong here. This line, taken from the title of one of this year’s winning poems, echoes perfectly the kind of message that came through so many of the poems and stories submitted for this year’s competition.
Caring is a difficult and complicated matter and does not always arise simply out of need, or obligation or even, necessarily, by choice. However, what is striking is the intrinsic sense of belonging that can ensue from the caring relationship for both the carer and the cared for.
Kathy Watson’s ‘The New Term’, this year’s first prize winner, is a disarmingly simple and delightfully frank portrayal of a schoolboy’s train journey with his family on his first day back at school. However it is so much more than that - it is a poem which helps us to see ourselves, as the boy, as his family and as the gawping onlookers on the train with them. The repeated words Cerebral Palsy, Cerebral Palsy... become the sound of the train on the tracks as well as a kind of incantation celebrating a certain kind of specialness. The effect of the poem is lasting, carried off with humour and gentleness.
‘Holding on’ by Heather Wastie is a poem I liked instantly on first reading and one in which I continued to find new meaning and power on each subsequent reading. This is a moving portrait in the voice of a grown up child who must exercise the kind of watchfulness and steely patience in looking after their mother as might be needed to keep a wayward toddler in check. She will plummet to the floor/ to pick up a fleck of fluff, / dart into the road / to pull up a weed.
And yet the mother in this poem has sentient moments in which she dislikes herself and we find ourselves in utter sympathy with the disorder she creates as well as the one who has to learn to cope with it.
Gaia Holmes’ ‘I belong here’ effectively weaves the modern and the mythical, employing the lyrical language of fairy-tale to conjure a wind-blown Orkney landscape, the stage on which a caring relationship is set.
There were so many excellent stories submitted this year that selecting only three winners proved to be an extremely challenging task. ‘Drips in Canon’ by Val Whitlock takes us deftly into the world of illness and dying, a world of heightened senses - music is everywhere. Fionn Shiner’s ‘Jean’ manages pathos and humour in equal measure, a truthful and affectionately self-effacing picture of dementia. ‘The Decision’ by Ann Abineri is unexpectedly tender with a heartbreaking ending, beautifully and devastatingly told.
As well as the stories and poems from this year’s competition which have won or been commended are those which have struck a chord with, and been chosen as favourites, by staff, volunteers and trustees of Carers UK.
Every piece of writing contained in this anthology is a testament to belonging - a reminder of what it is to be human, and what each one of us has to offer the other.
Competition judge, 2016
The new term by Kathy Watson
Holding on by Heather Wastie
I belong here by Gaia Holmes
Atlas by Jennifer Watson
In Eqypt by Madeleine McDonald
Remembering Tsvetaeva by Paul Donegan
On Sundays by Sarah Jameson
Role reversal at South Stack by John Tunaley
24 weeks by Nicholas McGaughey
Like a brick by Tamanna Khatun
Empathy by Jonathan Andrews
On neurotypical responses: exercise one; in the café by Beth McDonough
Sea glass by Zoe Alexander
The winning stories
Drips in canon by Val Whitlock
Jean by Fionn Shiner
The decision by Ann Abineri
So it goes by Rachael Smart
Feeding the ducks by Alyson Hilbourne
Guardian Angel by Rosie Cullen
Storm in a teacup by Jennifer Watson
A different kind of loving by Janet Rogers
The contraption by Bernadette Jordan
The confusion left behind by David McVey
A pictorial guide to the noises of a fridge when there is no manual for the baby by