R S Thomas
©John Hedgecoe


We are pleased to announce the winners of this year’s Eglwysfach R S Thomas Open Poetry Competition. Poets were invited to write one or two poems in response to chosen passages from the poetry of R S Thomas. This year’s 90 entries were judged by Gillian Clarke (former National Poet of Wales, 2008–2016) and Professor Tony Brown of Bangor University. The winners are: Mair De-Gare Pitt for ‘After Fifty Years’ (first prize), Jennifer Burkinshaw for ‘Calling Time on Love’ (second prize), with Tim Hodgetts, Mary Robinson, and Anne Uruska for ‘Llan-Fawr Shepherd’, ‘RS at the Writers' Workshop’, and ‘Ain't gone nowhere like’ (all jointly commended).

The winning poems are:


After fifty years

… ‘and looking at
me say what time it is
on love’s face, for we have
no business here other than
to disprove certainties the clock knows.’
Countering, RS Thomas
‘Come and see the clouds,’ you say,
as you look every day at the colours that change,
the shapes that drift
with the high wind; that slide
over blue, that blow and billow.
The years have ticked your face
into falling, tricked your hair
into fading, but look up -
firm cheekbones form; round curls;
a smile like sunlight through rain.
‘Come and see the clouds,’ you say,
as you slip away from me, word by word, day by day,
and I try to hold a mist in my hand.
Look up to the clouds. We still have this minute.
This minute. This minute. This sky.
Mair De-Gare Pitt


Calling time on love?

Now the clock has put a full
Stop on your sentence, I am
Deaf to poetry. A castaway,
No hand takes mine. I
Heave at the hour hand, to counter-
turn it fifty years but it is stuck
at the point of your departing.

It’s I must change time: face
Forward; count the dead hours
Without you. The shipwreck
I am is the proof love has
No end on this isle, though
You’re in so distant a land, I can
No longer read your face.

Response to RS Thomas’s Countering
Jennifer Burkinshaw


Llan-fawr Shepherd

Day’s end dusk sees him dagging wary, half-sated
Ewes from thin, pleached pastures. Ill-defined
Valley farms kindle a warmth beneath his bale-twined,
Stale-grimed corduroy overalls. Dogs wait,
Heads aslant. Fly, Gwen, Meg, none better. Tireless friends.
Sharp ears, ever heedful. Best of beasts.
Through dark years as chapels shut and psalmody ceased,
These hallowed companions made amends.

Slowly, the bowed back unfolds. Bar-eyed sheep, now free
Beneath salt-licked skies where they’d begun,
Stand in their shame, while the shepherd smiles, ageing one
Season at a time, treading softly.
Timothy Hodgetts



RS at the writers’ workshop

Another Prytherch poem, RS?
Verse 1: I’d start at break of day if I were you
and cut behold – far too archaic for 1949 -
sounds like a hymn or the Bible.
Hedge-shorn yearlings - yes, I can see them,
trailing brambles, half their fleeces missing,
and the man with the dog. You bring them alive.
Don’t quite understand the last two lines
of that verse – but they sound good.
Verse 2: Of course the man’s counting his money –
he can hardly subsist between one mart
and the next. Oh yes, ravens – always birds
in your poems. Swollen fold is nicely ambiguous.
But a theme for sentiment –?
RS, you must drop this habit of telling
not showing. Sonnet form I see – the rhymes heavy
and predictable in my opinion – you need to loosen up a bit.
Not sure about nimble airs but that last line’s a cracker –
the dawn trimming his tattered rags with gold.
Wish I’d thought of that.
Mary Robinson


"Ain't gone nowhere like"
Anne Uruska

Permission withheld to publish.


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