National Poetry Competition 2013: The winning poem

Read the unexpected picture of the first world war painted by the winner of this year's £5,000 prize

Clothes that escaped the Great War by Patricia McCarthy

Not the familiar ghosts: the shaggy dog of Thorne Waste
that appeared only to children; the chains clanking
from the Gyme seat, nor the black barge at Waterside.
These were the most scary, my mother recalled: clothes
piled high on the wobbly cart, their wearers gone.
Overalls caked in dung, shirts torn from the muscle strain
of heavy hemp sacks, socks matted with cow-cake
from yards nearby, and the old horse plodding, on the nod.
Its uneven gait never varied whether coming from farms
where lads were collected like milk churns, or going back
with its harvest of dungarees scented by first fags,
notes in pockets to sweethearts; boots with laces undone,
jerseys knitted – purl, plain – around coke fires.
And the plod, plod, quadruple time; then the catch
in the plod from the clank of loose shoes, from windgalls
on the fetlocks of the horse, each missed beat on the lane
a missed beat in a heart. As a small girl she could see –
at their windows – the mothers pressing memories
too young for mothballs into lavender bags, staring out
propaganda posters, dreading the shouts of telegraph boys
from lines of defence and attack. As the harness creaked
and the faithful old horse clopped forward and back,
the lads were new-dressed in the years never to be had,
piled higher than high over the shafts of the buckling cart.

Patricia McCarthy

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
First world war poem wins National Poetry Competition 2013
Patricia McCarthy wins £5,000 prize and comparisons with Wilfred Own and Siegfried Sassoon

Alison Flood

27, Mar, 2013 @8:29 PM

Article image
Helen Dunmore wins National Poetry Competition

Writer best known for her novels, who submitted work at the last minute 'on impulse', takes £5,000 award for single poem 'The Malarkey'

Alison Flood

30, Mar, 2010 @6:35 PM

Article image
Poem of ‘beauty, wit and grace’ about fathers and sons wins National Poetry Competition
Ex-New York cab driver Lee Stockdale wins £5,000 after My Dead Father’s General Store in the Middle of a Desert beat 17,000 other poems

Sarah Shaffi

29, Mar, 2023 @7:30 PM

Article image
National Poetry Competition winning poem: Robin In Flight by Paul Adrian

The winner of the 2010 National Poetry Competition is by an unpublished poet. Paul Adrian was born in Leeds in 1984 – here is his winning poem

Paul Adrian

25, Mar, 2011 @9:02 AM

Article image
National Poetry Competition has its youngest ever winner
At 19, Eric Yip scoops the £5,000 prize for his personal and political work, Fricatives. Read his ‘immensely ambitious and beautifully achieved poem’ here

Sarah Shaffi

31, Mar, 2022 @7:15 PM

Article image
National Poetry Competition winning poem: To the Lighthouse, by Allison McVety
The winner of the 2011 National Poetry Competition was announced last night – and this year's winning poem was written by Allison McVety. She won the Poetry Business Book and Pamphlet Competition 2006 with her first collection, The Night Trotsky Came to Stay, and is now writing her third collection. The National Poetry Competition judges were impressed with the way in which To the Lighthouse 'takes huge leaps and yet is shimmering with small details'

Allison McVety

29, Mar, 2012 @3:05 PM

Article image
Christopher James wins the National Poetry Competition

Christopher James's triumphant poem, Farewell to the Earth, uses deadpan humour to tell the story of the burial of a friend's father

Alison Flood

25, Mar, 2009 @9:36 AM

Article image
Linda France wins National Poetry Competition with erotic botany story

Piece imagining an encounter between a buttoned-up man and a flirtatious flower scoops £5,000 prize, with Maggie Sawkins picking up Ted Hughes award for innovation in poetry

Richard Lea

29, Mar, 2014 @8:00 AM

Article image
Rachel Rooney wins CLPE Poetry award – read her poem

A collection of poems for children by a poet who 'relishes and shares the craft of poetry' wins the CLPE award

24, Jul, 2012 @5:30 PM

Article image
Gillian Clarke 'stunned' at winning Queen's gold medal for poetry
The national poet of Wales awarded medal in recognition of her latest collection, A Recipe for Water, as well as her body of work

Richard Lea

24, Dec, 2010 @12:00 AM