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National Poetry Competition winner 2009


The winner of the 2009 National Poetry Competition

The 2009 winner of this prestigious annual competition for the best single poem is Christopher James with Farewell to the Earth, who wins the first prize of £5,000.

Read all about it on the Poetry Society website and here's winning poem:

Farewell to the Earth

We buried him with a potato in each hand

on New Year’s Day when the ground was hard as luck,

wearing just cotton, his dancing shoes plus

a half bottle of pear cider to stave off the thirst.

In his breast pocket we left a taxi number

and a packet of sunflower seeds; at his feet was

the cricket bat he used to notch up a century

against the Fenstanton eleven

We dropped in his trowel and a shower of rosettes

then let the lid fall on his willow casket.

The sky was hard as enamel; there was

a callus of frost on the face of the fields.

Dust to dust; but this was no ordinary muck.

The burial plot was by his allotment, where

the water butt brimmed with algae and the shed door

swung and slammed as we shook back the soil.

During the service, my mother asked

the funeral director to leave; take away some hair

and the resemblance was too close; and yet

my father never looked so smart.

I kept expecting him to walk in, his brow

steaming with rain, soil under his fingernails

smelling of hot ashes and compost;

looking for fresh tea in the pot.