National Poetry Competition 2020

Very pleased to have my poem ‘Clickbait’ commended in the National Poetry Competition. You can see a video of me reading it here.


In the forecourt carpark
of the out-of-town hypermarket
the driver of the four-by-four
with a pair of latex bull testicles
swinging from the tail-bar
may as well accept my ire
as an inevitable gift. It is Sunday
which means all of us are free,
except those of us confined
to the steadfast patterns of want.
The world teems with things
that seek us out with indefatigable
urgency: a hack for ear wax,
cricket whites for chihuahuas,
pension advice from Jason Statham.
Dentists hate the local mother
who has refined a technique
for tooth whitening, but where
does this leave our capacity
for joy? Snared inside a click farm,
in some Siberian tech park,
or scraped into the mainframe
of our social media loneliness.
The moment to have refused this
has long since passed, and
it’s like a friend of mine once said:
we were all born in the wrong time
if this is our future. And yet,
we slouch on towards the horizon,
our longing accumulating in piles,
the weight of responsibilities
swinging meatily at our backs.

The judges said: ‘This is quite an unusual and risk-taking poem, in its choice of subject matter and the plural first person. It’s an important attempt to deal seriously – that echo of Yeats which emerges near the end – with the emotional impact of lives lived in cyberspace. The circular structure of the poem, returning to that ‘pair of latex bull testicles,’ works wonderfully. By the end, that image has accumulated so much weight, because of the poem’s treatment of abstractions like want, joy and responsibilities, that it becomes a deeply powerful and resonant image for an important strand of the emotional lives of so many of us.’

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