HappenStance Competition 22: Travelling Light 

Colour photo of bookshelf with two little birds, one a Xmas decoration and one glass. The birds are looking at each other. Behind them a row of book spines, various colours.

(Scroll down for competition 23)

Judge’s Comments: Helena Nelson (HappenStance editor)

Sorry it’s been slow to report on this competition. Foolishly I let it close at the start of the reading window, a month that’s so full-on that it was impossible to organise the judging of this competition. So now, to get the show on the road, I have judged it myself (albeit anonymously).

Of the thirty-three entries there were many I liked, and even more that I liked in part – too many for me to mention here. Here are a few comments (alphabetical by surname). But if your poem isn’t listed below, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t carefully considered and appreciated.

  • Janis Clark’s ‘Choice’ offered a refreshing new take on Frost’s ‘The Road Not Taken, but didn’t actually deal with the journey.
  • Susanna Clayson’s ‘Bloody Hell’ was very funny. But a holiday, not a journey.
  • Ryan Devin’s ‘Connections’ was compelling and complex: but notfully fitting remit.
  • Jo Field’s ‘The End of an Idyll’ was a lovely example of a serious poem using both rhyme and form, but for me a little focussed in the third stanza.
  • Ellen Galford’s ‘A Night on the Heights’, about ‘the last train for Parnassus’, was great fun, but not (to me) quite as funny as the one I chose as winner. But it taught me what a Brocken spectre is!
  • Robin Helwig-Larsen’s ‘Ex-Rover’ used rhyme and metre with variation and flexibility nicely lyrical but more about the end of a journey than the travelling.
  • Lucinda Kowol’s ‘Grave Goods’ opened brilliantly and established a lovely sense of rhyming form into the bargain. But the last line wasn’t (to me) quite right (but this poem will find the right last line and will go places).
  • Margaret Livingstone’s ‘Final Flight’ was beautiful, and I will remember it. But no rhyme.
  • Margaret Morey’s ‘First Trip to Skye’ certainly was about a journey, albeit quite a jolly one. It started wonderfully, and had some rhyme, but for me fell a little flat at the end.
  • Mary Anne Perkin’s ‘High Wire Act’ started brilliantly, continued well and then lost impetus at the end. Had it ended with the third stanza, it might have won — if it had rhymed!

Finally, I chose as winner Tessa Strickland’s ‘The Dogs of Primrose Hill’ which you can read below. It is cheerfully rude, frivolous, skilful in use of rhyme, metre and enjambment, and contains an element of inner truth. It looks dead simple: but trust me — it’s not easy to get something to run this well. And it made me laugh out loud.



The dogs that walk on Primrose Hill
are mostly well behaved.
They don’t leap at each other's throats;
they're neatly groomed and shaved.
Every day at breakfast time
they journey round the park.
Impeccable, they strut about.
They sometimes sniff and bark
politely at each other: Hail,
good fellow, how are you?
Round and round the park they go —
there’s nothing else to do
if you're a dog on Primrose Hill.
But when the evening comes
they lie alone and dream of more
than sniffing bitches’ bums.


Competition 23: Feeling Blank? 

Let’s have a bit of blank verse. For me (though some may dispute it) this means iambic pentameter. 

It will not rhyme so no heroic couplets this time.

Between 6 and 26 lines please. Any subject. 

Closing date: 30 September, 2019

Prize: Publication of winning poem on this page and publication of your choice from the HappenStance website.

ps Please don’t forget about the International WrapperRhyme Challenge!


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