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Winners and Shortlisted Entries: 2024 Fenland Poet Laureate Award

Read the winning and shortlisted entries for the 2024 Fenland Poet Laureate and Young Fenland Poet Laureate Award

Fenland Poet Laureate Award: Winners and Shortlisted Entries


Shortlisted entries

Young Fenland Poet Laureate Award: Winners and Shortlisted Entries 


Shortlisted Entries

Fenland Poet Laureate Award

First Place: Hannah Teasdale - The Un-Coupling

Inspired by my Winter sightings of the migrated swans to the fields in Fenland. 

I cannot hear her through the interjection

of wild-life and traffic. I tread


on the damp-hope of finding less barren land

where in our hundreds we winter-gather


But even in this light-whisper of dark,

I cannot see. The moon - our gift


has turned its back on me. No sanctuary,

no space left in its wisp of crescent. I am blind


to life without her. It is I who should provide

but already I am nothing without her side of reason.


I miss her hiss of protection when others' young

come on weekends, stand too close


to the edge with offerings of stale bread, tantrums,

melting ice-creams and good intention


The air smells more of spoiled crops than open waters

Perhaps the icy fingers have lost her discretion -


the wind blows in the wrong direction. The cold

refuses not to rise. A hint of presence in the mirk


Spider-web traces are all I find. I wish

for once, to feel her sharp beak bite.

Runner Up: Pen Avey - transient

My life begins on meadow, drained from salt bog long ago.

Clay laid first to hold me fast, then wooden joists

hoisted high by flat-capped men, encasing bones in Battenburg brick.

A smiling door, vermillion to match my step,

complementary bright brass fixings all topped off

with terracotta tiles and a chimney pot.


The first two come.

He works black Fenland earth through windswept days,

she turns a handle; runs up floral curtains.

I shut my glassy eyes a while to owl hoots and cat fights.

Her belly swells four times -

Three succumb to sickness, yet one remains.


The whirlwind boy climbs an apple tree Father planted out back.

Slips and lands in Mother's arms -

his laughter drifts through summer nights.

He ages well but marries not;

lives out his dotage in one stark room,

hunted by a tallow moon.


Iron railings flake with rust.

Floral curtains rag to dust.

Greasy soot belches from my oak-mantled hearth.

Above, a sweeps brush pushes up to sky -

darkened, ominous as

metal birds drone by.


A single lady, sharp, refined

adopts me. Spends her waking time

stripping walls and planting pansies.

I shine with pride when dawdling strangers

stop to admire my smart facade.

A blackbird sang the night she passed.

My newest family dwells snug within.

I love them much as they love me -

Affection edged in melancholy.

Knowing they'll move on, one way or another

and leave me bare. Pining for

a transient lover.

Third Prize: Jonathan Moore - A Fenland Ode

I've lived in the Fens since I just don't know when

So my toes are all a bit webbed


My wellies have holes, our garden has moles

And our dog is only three legged


Our house has two beds for our seven large heads

So I share my small bed with my sisters


We all share our shoes and fight hard to choose

The pair that don't give us blisters


My Pa catches eels to provide for our meals

And now and again pays the rent


My Ma singles beet for gangmaster Pete

Who everyone knows is quite bent


Everyone pens that us folk from the Fens

Are interbred and doolally


But it's just not that fair cause our teeth all have hair

And my brother just married Aunt Sally.

Shortlist: Catherine Blake - I Left You Once

I left you once.

I drove away full of hope and fear

I longed for new and didn't hear

You calling me back

Your Fenland Blow

Still howling, chilling my childish ear.


I stayed away.

I found an undulating landscape

Grey, stark and full of dreams

Of someone.

You didn't give up

I felt it on my back, your late summer sun.


Years pass quickly.

Friends fall like leaves

Shadows follow you and whisper

'Come home.

Before it's too late.

We forgive your misguided need to roam'.


You summoned me here.

Your tall sky, your fields and dykes.

Your sunsets, pure and deep.

You're in my blood

Which is why

I tried to stay away but found I never could.

Shortlist: Judith King - Moving to the Fens

"The Fens!" they thundered,

(traffic roaring by, buses belching fumes into the roses

imprisoned in the public park)

"The Fens! Back of Beyond! - and flat!


And flat it was.

I rattled along empty switchback roads

spinning through endless acres of black earth,

a scattering of houses pitched at crazy angles,

sinking in the fen.

Roads banked up above the fields,

the menacing glint of water either side,

And signposts hung with mist,

pointing to unknown places sending shivers down the spine;-

Floods Ferry, Burnt House, Block Fen, Dykemoor.

"The Fens!" I thought.

"What have I done?"


But what I found was unexpected loveliness,

An arrow through the heart;

Mellow market towns,

Slow narrow-boats that nudge the mooring

where the Nene

shakes her pale mane of reeds

and peacock butterflies dance above the nettle beds;

willows that dabble delicate fingers where the moorhen bobs;

a blaze of flowers in Summer; Christmas lights

that make our tiny village

bright as a bauble in the windy night;

And friendship, as we cluster round the fire

in The Five Alls

while outside, in the gathering twilight of the past,

the rumbling wagons and the patient hooves still go, perhaps,

into the darkness of the fens.


I found vast skies and coral sunsets,

dawns of fire,

that free your soul and let your spirit soar.

The Fens!

Who'd ask for more?

Shortlist: Laura Collins - The Legend of the Lost

Lost socks, missing parts,

Victims of circumstance, and lonely hearts.

Down by the river; dawn light streaming,

Torn apart, but ever still dreaming.

Hotel room art, a sky so black.

Traipsing through fields and over the tracks.

Destinationless, unattached, bound to sink,

Don't pretend to care, when that's what you think.

But what about...

Blossoming minds, resources spare,

People are people, life is unfair.

Reaching out, one arm to another,

Okay or not, Fenland sisters and brothers.

Pushed around; but be still now,

They might assume, but you ask us how.

"How can we help? What we do?"

Life is more and the key lies with you.

Lost socks, missing parts then,

A horizon so long; we're found again.

The wrong crowd, the misunderstood,

Now will be heard. For once and for good.

Shortlist: Brenda Barber - A picture of Fenland

Criss crossed with green and brown rectangles,

Hedged by bushes and manmade willow fences

And sprinkled with poppies.

Footprints in the mud of animals and birds large and small and tiny.

Scudding clouds rushing overhead and also clear blue skies

And now and then, a striking rainbow.

 Cottages dressed in thatch and held together with black wooden beams.

Stone built farms with cattle grazing and noisy fowl in clucking mode.

Rivers, streams and ponds aplenty,

Babbling brooks tinkling over stones and pebbles.

Country roads meandering between pretty villages and small towns.

Filled with maypole centred greens and country pubs with open doors.

Smiling landlords with open arms.

Children skipping hand in hand, their satchels filled with yoyos and conkers.

On their way to village schools with flower filled borders.

Country houses with close cropped lawns and fountains .

Rows of red brick houses.

Each garden with white sheets billowing on the washing line

And a snoozing dog in front of a wooden kennel.




Choked A roads, exhaust fumes and pot holed roads.

High rise buildings taking over towns and cities.

With mirrored windows that you cannot see inside of.

Out of town malls with every kind of shop inside.

Massive car parks filled with every kind of motor vehicle

And all fined if they stay too long.

Concrete secondary schools with asphalt playgrounds where children push and fight.

School bags hiding knives and vapes or cigarettes.

Multi-purpose buildings where a man owns just one room in which he cooks, eats, sleeps and dies.

Canals awash with filth and rubbish, factories' output killing the fish.

Neighbours fences getting higher and higher and no one knows their next door's name.

Humongous sheds filled with thousands of featherless chickens.

Cows that never step on grass or get to feed their young.

Is this a dream or

Is this what we've become?

Shortlist: Tony Trayford - Wisbech or Bust

I'm Dennis the Menace

** of the table tennis

First I'm up

** and then I'm down

I'm like the "Jack in the box"

** or an animated clown


I serve at the side

** or should I say wide?

Then I start with a spin

**and loop it back again

I'm all over the place

** I really must say

Sometimes I'm great

But, mostly, it's an "off day"


I block to the left

** and I chop to the right

Sometimes it seems that I'll

                 **be here all night?


A point is worth chasing

       ** with some regret?

Because I am still racing

*  ** to put it into the net!


    SOMETIMES, however

           **and this I insist!

      It all comes together

  ** in the form of a blitz!



 ** a "purple patch", I feel?

     ** It's beyond any doubt!

     For all of their appeal??


   SO: here it is:-

   A player who's so erratic

         **      One time a loser

      ** and the next ecstatic!


                    I love this game

                      I truly confess!

        I like to beat the others

   ** but, usually, it's a mess

Young Fenland Poet Laureate Award

First Place: Lacey Vinn - A Christmas Truce

A far away chant

A whisper of a song

A recognizable voice

A place where they belong


A sudden light appears

The carols start to get loud

But they continue with their song

So young yet so proud


Silence fell upon the night sky

No more missiles or gun

Now just birds tweeting

And a distant sound of fun


He risks it all in a few seconds

But two nations learn to trust

Commanders get angry

But soldiers state it's Christmas we must


The sun rose as the fun begun

Exchanging pictures and a story

Both countries would whisper

"I wish we both could have the glory"


As fast as you know it

Both countries play a game

Foosball slash football

As soldiers enjoy the fame


Hours go by

Laughing and talking

Every soldier rests their legs

As they've been doing so much walking


A far away thunder

Falls upon them all

They say goodbye and leave

An explosion "there goes the ball"


All the magic

Of Christmas past

Both country's soldiers

Praying it wasn't the last


But a secret exchange

A sausage for a treat

A heartwarming gift

Wishing the end was down the street


Proof no soldier wanted to be there

Wishing it was more than a Christmas Truce

They get forced to shoot again

Thinking hard to find an excuse


In the end the battle continues

The soldiers forced to put friends aside

Pow! Boom! Goes the guns

Both country's only fighting for pride

Runner Up: Nathanael Wilson - River's Rest

Willow, consumed by blazing scarlet, as weaving

River runs its course. Through softly spoken, whisper

Thin ripples, glides swan, a silent listener.


Grouse clatters, thunder rumbles, as adder 

Slinks and slithers. Sparse Fen, ice flecked

Peat, its voyage checked.


Day breaks, dew dances, as heron hunts 

And damselfly darts. Above the pools, on fragile stems

They perch, living gems.


Night falls, owl calls, and still the willows

Standing tall. Amidst the reeds, of hissing sound.

Amidst the flotsam run aground.


Water soothes these moonlit banks, as nightjar cries

And lapwing stutters. Across the lake, on pondweed bed

A single moorhen rests its weary head.

Third Prize: Lydia Shillings - I the eel of Ely

I the eel of Ely.

I slither and slide,

 I ebb and glide.

Through the murky marsh of the fens.

I the eel of Ely.

I hunt the stickleback in my home,

But they're more compact since the farmers have sown.

Sown the crops on the fields they've drained.

I the eel of Ely.

I'm driven closer, closer than ever before,

To the muddy banks and the dry shore.

As more and more water is taken away.

I the eel of Ely.

I'm amongst the fishermen, all around,

My heart misses a beat as I'm scared by the sound.

The sound of the nets rising up from the bed.

I the eel of Ely.

Oh yes, I the eel of Ely, but,

I slither and slide,

I ebb and glide,

No more.

Shortlist: Frederick Fox-Brown - Cricket

CRICKET - A Tribute to Wisbech Town Cricket Club








Shortlist: Adriana Mauremootoo - Song of the Fens

Mists dance on waters, mysterious and deep,
Where herons stand sentinel, their vigil to keep.
A ballet of reeds in the soft, silted bed,
Where dragonflies waltz, a delicate thread.

Beneath the vast sky, where the clouds gently roam,
The fens tell a story, a quiet, ancient tome.
Fields of fen cotton, where the wind gently sways,
And the sun's golden fingers, in the rushes it lays.

Reflecting the heavens, the still waters gleam,
A mirror of dreams, in the Fenland's esteem.
Oh, the fens hold secrets, in the silt they confide,
As history whispers, in the ebb and the tide.

Beneath the vast skies, where the curlews cry,
And the willow's soft rustle tells tales of the sky.
A symphony of nature, in the fens it resounds,
Where the earth and the water, in harmony, bound.

So wander through fenlands, where the heart finds repose,
In the embrace of the marshes, where tranquillity grows.
For in the fens' story, there's a lesson to glean,
In the dance of the reeds, in the fen's quiet sheen.

Shortlist: Dadisai Honde - The Wetland Secrets

I take a road trip to Wisbech, visiting my aunt.

It's a long drive from Cambridge...

And we were going to pass through The Fens.

I could be absorbed in the car seat out of languor.

What can entertain me?

I look outside, and I see a whole new country, fantasy, in the blink of an eye


The flatness of the land

The reeds protruding out of the shallow, rippling water swaying.

It's like they are dancing to the silent song of the wind,

Slowly but they still manage to stay in time.


The river is so calm and tranquil,

Covered with little spots of algae and plants.

It stretched out for miles and miles though,

But suddenly, I spotted a flock of swans

Gliding across the soft wetlands.


Their porcelain coats of feathers made them look like floating clouds.

Clouds hovering over the wetlands,

But all of a sudden, our car hit a sharp turn, turning away from the alluring swans.

I was thwarted, but I saw two bunnies hopping on the verdant grass,

Their delicate feet soaking into the grass two at a time.

We took another turn into a neighbourhood, clearly signaling we were nearly at my aunt's house.

I was irked that my Fenland adventure was over,

But at least I will experience it again on the way back!

Shortlist: Phoebe Trew - A PLACE OF OUR OWN

Endless fields beneath vast skies

Soil so rich and black it defies.


Twelve pylons counted on the horizon's line

Agriculture's rhythm, a story sublime.


Migrating swans and sugar-beet mounds

Tranquil marshes abound to be found.


Buildings once proud, strand with weathered grace.

Time has left its mark on each familiar face.


Faded murals on walls, telling of yesteryears,

Yet beneath the surface a resilient pride.


Less people, more quiet, a subtle home,

Beneath sea level, a place of our own.

Shortlist: Oscar Wierzba - Fenland Flatlands

Over the flatlands,

Over the fields,

There lie rivers, dykes and much more,

Boring it may seem,

Whittlesey is a machine of beauty,

As the lock sleeps,

The Bower reaps havoc,

As the wind turbines turn,

The cars on the road swerve,

As you may have heard,

The roads turn,

There grows the fern,

In the forests of turn,

As the grass grows green,

The farmers are very keen.

Shortlist: Oliver Redding - The Wanderer

Standing tall but feeling so small

The church, the post office, the village hall,

He wanders

He feels so lonely,

He longs,

For somewhere homely,

Somewhere he belongs

He wants to find someone who will care,

But he can't find anyone anywhere,

He wanders on and on,

Trying to find someone who's kindness hasn't gone,

He is sad and alone,

And can't find anyone who will welcome him into their home,

He wanders into the Fens and thank his lucky charms,

It was full of people who welcomed him with open arms.

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