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This report is taken from PN Review 125, Volume 25 Number 3, January - February 1999.

Winning the Bays Lawrence Sail

The submission contained a great many poems written by people who obviously put out a lot but took in very little, who thought that good writing and good reading were not connected, whose aesthetic ideas had been shaped when they first read the Georgians and never challenged since, and who were not interested in finding out how their pastoral/lyric world might be adapted to include things that were urban/political/ rough-edged. Many of these offerings, indeed, seemed to me hardly poems at all (no shape, no rhyme, no subject) - which left me feeling puzzled as to why they'd been cast as such in the first place. The lure of 'being a poet'? Or sheer incompetence?

Thus Andrew Motion, in his introduction to The Ring of Words (Sutton Publishing, 1998), an anthology of winning poems in the most recent Arvon International Poetry Competition, sponsored by the Daily Telegraph in association with Duncan Lawrie Limited. Motion reports interestingly on the subjects which he and his fellow judges (Fleur Adcock, Grey Gowrie and Charles Moore) found recurring amongst the entry of more than seven thousand poems - 'love of places, love of loved ones, death of loved ones, death of Princess Diana' - and amusingly on the tendency of judges to moan while actually wading through. As for influences, 'the strongest pull was exercised by a mish-mash of the mighty dead, rather than any one or two contemporaries'. And as the winner of the first ever Arvon competition in ...


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