Ways to be Wilder winning poems

We are so thrilled to announce the winning and highly commended poems in the Ways to be Wilder poetry challenge! We were absolutely bowled over by the hundreds of entries we received in response to judge Jen Hadfield’s challenge to ‘find your wild side’, and delighted to be publishing Jen’s ten chosen poems, which you can read in full by the following the links to the side of the page.


‘Summer Photograph’ by Amy Wolstenholme

‘Summer Photograph’ is a wonderfully urgent rhapsody to fleeting summer. To speak it aloud your reader needs to breathe fast, deep and often; off-setting rhymes so they don’t fall at the ends of lines was canny too. You use these tools cleverly to deny your reader some of the breathing space they might expect, driving on the poem’s summer. The camera flash is like a solstice: a teetering pause before the days begin to shorten and summer outruns itself. I love that the wildnesses you hymn here are human, urban and natural … too often these are segregated in life and poetry.

Jen Hadfield

‘mynydd y graog’ by Eleanor Smith

This poem-sequence grows out of a wondering hush; it’s a praise-poem really, to the hill, and to the rain. You understand that white space and silence are as integral to the poem as its printed or spoken elements. In these forays of yours, we experience the elements intensely; your animal intelligence throws out wonderful images: the hill under cloud as a whale underwater; the hill and person twinned in their breath and marked skin. In the charged, near holy quietnesses between verses you allow your reader to draw close and to make the poem with you. This is poetry’s most courteous and powerful gesture.

Jen Hadfield

‘dandelion clock’ by Ella Standage

You’ve constructed ‘dandelion clock’ with a horologist’s delicacy and precision. You’ve felt your way to a flexible form and music for your poem intuitively. Each stanza is structured differently, with never a redundant or heavily-placed word, and each true to the stretchy nature of time. We all know how a minute can pass in a blink, or seem to drag on for hours. But you also stop time, and make your reader hold their breath, before you dismantle the fragile dandelion clock with a puff of your own. I love that your consideration of time, and the present tense demands that your reader cherish every second.  

Jen Hadfield

‘Twenty tourists in a motor boat watching marine plankton bioluminesce’ by Rachel Lewis

Concrete poems like this make the reader ask what’s happening in the white space of the page. Visual rhythm is as important as beats or syllables here: as our eye tracks the poem we feel the zigzag of hands cutting through the water here, lighting a trail. It can be challenging to make poetry about such magical natural phenomena. You do well to tell the story simply at first, with the fluency of the night sea evoked in those three yoked adjectives ‘starless blackly softly’ ­ (proving, incidentally, that rules such as ‘take all the adjectives out of your poems’ are made to be broken.) In your very moving poem, plankton and humans can discuss each other. Imagine what a poem-poster this would make, printed in white perhaps on a black ground, and drawn into the centre of the page; or appearing and fading line by line on a black laptop screen.

Jen Hadfield

Highly Commended

‘Tree Talk’ by Francesca Weekes

The stop-motion slowed-down-ness of this poem is so very generous: how sensually you’ve inhabited the forest.  In ‘100 Differences Between Poetry and Prose’, Tom Leonard described poetry as ‘the juiciest bits in the juiciest order.’ You might now prune this poem very gently, very carefully, like a tree-surgeon, making sure every line and image is true to tree. 

Jen Hadfield

‘Slug’ by Loe

This short, intense poem is full of drama, humour and experimentation. It’s a kind of Alice-in-Wonderland Drink-Me potion that lets us shrink and see the world from a slug’s perspective. There are lots of surprises in word-choice, simile and metaphor – always rich and sensual – your slug has the heroism and Romantic sensibility of an Arthurian knight.

Jen Hadfield

‘The White Wolf’ by Amelien Fox

This is a strange and powerful poem. Is the wolf an outcast, because it looks different from the rest of the pack? Hauntingly, the poem seems to sing on after the last line…the best poems are often like this. I wonder how you decided on the poem’s shape. You could try breaking up the lines of the first verse so they’re a similar length to the second; or experiment with stitching some of the second verse lines together to make longer lines like the first. 

Jen Hadfield

‘the writer comes across a hedgehog at midnight or the hedgehog comes across a writer’ by Rosa Walling-Wefelmeyer

This poem opens with an irresistible image, then unfolds like a puzzle ring. I appreciate that you allow a satisfying element of disorientation to persist. The poem has all the hallmarks of a dance with the wild: the witness agog, rapt, confused; language faltering…as if the hedgehog(s) were dancing with the writer. 

Jen Hadfield

‘Butterflies’ by Alannah Taylor

As a meditation on what becomes of us – physically, emotionally – when we’re compressed, this poem rings very true. You handle its music very well: the ornamentation of clustered assonances in the trisyllables words in the first half yield to a smoother music – your reader feels it as a physical easing – as the poem emerges, and the nymph unfolds from the cupboard/chrysalis. This unfolding of sense and sound might be embodied in the poem’s form, too – which feels to me like it may still be evolving.

Jen Hadfield

‘A Woodpigeon’ by Tanya Kundu

This assured poem explore ideas of self-image and perception very movingly. Poor woodpigeons! There’s some very acute observation here. The clatter of an alarmed woodpigeon’s wings; the way they are so often concealed except for their voice; your descriptions of pheasant and blackbird song are all very true. And the irregular line-lengths feel apt here – like straggly feathers. I did wonder if ‘dehydration decrees’ was a bit stuffy for a bird, but changed my mind. The voice is consistent: articulate and mournful.

Jen Hadfield

Published June, 2016

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