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This report is taken from PN Review 103, Volume 21 Number 5, May - June 1995.

Judge's Notes Felicity Rosslyn

There were 1,500 entries to this poetry competition and here in this hall are 100 authors to perform their poems. There is quiet tension, and a marked exhilaration: it is not every day you get a chance to perform in public, and a chance to win 1,000 guineas. (This is not an underfunded competition) Who says poetry is unpopular? But leisure is obviously a stimulus too: they look like retired professionals who do the crossword first - the ladies wear shawls, the men are very tidy. A few are on the arts circuit: the men wear ponytails or have a hungry biker look, the women dress mysteriously and smile. The younger element favours black, and the remainder are mothers who have wrenched themselves from the family for a weekend, just glad to be here, where poetry is taken seriously.

(Twenty-five poems down) But is it? What exactly are we doing here? Every poem is greeted with courteous applause, we (the judges) smile and look encouraging, but what are we pleased about? That people write poems when they could be watching game shows? But they are writing what seem to be intimate letters: I already know about the day X retired from teaching and Y's erotic difficulties on a foreign holiday, not to mention Z's loss of her trying mother. If we were sitting next to each other on the bus there would be more preliminaries, surely, before this kind of confidence was shared. But here we are ...


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