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Magma Open Pamphlet Competition — The Poems


Magma Open Pamphlet Competition Results


Winning pamphlet

1. Dear, by Alice Willitts

Shortlisted pamphlets

2. /si:d/ by Ben Egerton

3. Satyress by Audrey Molloy

4. I invented a metaphysics by Alison Winch


Read poems from the winning and shortlisted pamphlets here

Buy the winning pamphlet here

Commended pamphlets (in alphabetical order)

A Lone Poem by Jeri Onitskansky

Boi by Nicola Bray

Crabapple by Cherry Doyle

Farm Boy and the Avenue of Saints  by Pat Winslow

Kisu by Soul Patel

Paper Dolls by Katherine Lockton

Re:Creation by Claire Cox

Scroll down to read poems selected from the commended pamphlets



Selected poems from the commended pamphlets (in alphabetical order)


A Lone Poem by Jeri Onitskansky

November meant yellow nuts on shrubs
that were either strawberry trees

or a Balkan version of the common schefflera.
Each year I plucked a few to watch

back home over winter: their slow motion
breaking open, facing north on the sill—

bloom of red globules, dollhouse fruit bowls.
The oozing from each fractured pod

mimicked a heart finally giving way, admitting
the marriage is over, over for fuck’s sake,

a blood bouquet almost too gorgeous
to clear off the window sill, or scarlet eggs

left by an unspecified insect.


Boi by Nicola Bray

after Lili Elbe

In the history of medical arts I do not exist.
The library and archive is destroyed.

A simple white frame illuminates my skin.

Hands clasped, neck and jaw one continual line,
painted bow mouth and my eye drawn

to the muscles in my face, the cut of this shirt,
the false unevenness of these breasts.

This landscape is a brute.

It is not with my brain, not with my eyes,
not my hands that I want to create

but with my heart and with my blood.
Lay your body over mine like a stencil,

know that nothing stranger will ever happen,
that nothing stranger could happen.


Crabapple by Cherry Doyle

Screech Owls

The hour tightens, but my eyes are bowls of light,
rippled with moonlit veins; starved.
A razor-sharp shriek hollows the skull,
yet white wings are cloud-silent on silver-serrated sky.
Bones clatter in the darkness like dropped knives.

Move me with the gods under cover of blind night,
take my soul to those savage trees, that pierce stars
in the virgin blushes of dawn.
Tell me the secrets you hide under leaves;
dark fruit, pregnant with the blood of your millennia.

Only here, the turbulent soup behind the eyes
clots back into brain-shape; with lost fingers
I give myself to your plumage, until
sleep slithers in the shadows, hesitant and twisted.
Winter fingerprints my skin; I expect frost when I wake.


Farm Boy and the Avenue of Saints by Pat Winslow

The Marriage Is a Mistake

A cement bag
humped against her porch that won’t be shifted.
She lets him in
trailing silica, slag and limestone over her carpets,
wets him with her longing
and watches him set solid in the front room, his grey face hardening in the flickerlight.
She leaves
with two stray cats
from the neighbouring terrace.
Taller now, a spindle
with grey hair down to her waist, she is a legend of untidy bones.
It’s rumoured she inhabits
the grounds of a local hospital
setting traps in the hollows of bushes.


Kisu by Soul Patel


My father, sat at the dining table, scrapes the stone
along the blade with a discrete scratch. The knife
takes shape in his hands, returning, slightly diminished,
to its former glory. Kisu we call it, a Swahili word

carried in suitcases from East Africa, beside tea leaves
and a £50 note. A stranger not belonging in our language,
an intruder that’s now so familiar we use it freely
in place of Chari or Cappu. This Kisu that slices

cassava at the lighthouse in Mombasa, before lining
the cleft with paprika and salt. The man with the machete
could slice you open the same way if he chose, but instead
always smiles and takes the shillings you gladly give him.

This same Kisu that parted my father’s chest, broke
open the skin on his arms and legs, picked out arteries.
This Kisu that breaks open cloves of garlic in my mother’s
ageing hands, coriander coming to life sliced into strips.

This Kisu, over 30 years old, turning over face to face
flat on a palm, inspected edge to point. My father
continues on in his duty, metal dust collecting invisible
on the tablecloth and between the grooves of his fingertips.


Paper Doll by Katherine Lockton


What will the butcher’s wife say of me
when I no longer come for my chicken thighs,
her husband all the while reading The Sun
as he lies next to her in bed. Will she say
that woman; the one that comes here for our thighs.
How will they know of you?
How will anyone know that the reason I leave it all is you?


Re:Creation by Claire Cox

Conker Alley

The Park they called it, or Conker Alley,
stretching down from the church to Buttermilk Farm.

Each side the trees grew sick, coughed moths.
Most midsummers the leaves had crisped and browned,

unripe fruit lay mashed on tarmac by August.
All dug out to the roots, so they say. The new eucalyptus

took quick, two lines stung the air, but drowned
the year the Swere broke its banks and wouldn’t return.

We watched all winter from Steepness Hill –
Goose Acre, Spokes Meadow, Thimble Hall Field

all sunk under stubborn grey waters; eventually sucked
dry by the seven-year summer, dubbed by some wag

in the pub’s sweltering, beerless beer garden as
The Great British Bake Off and, of course, it stuck.

An avenue of cypress points its black fingers
to the church these days. On either side, cistus

and goats. Sorghum rattles where the Swere
once ran. Old folk hide from the sun,

listen to podcasts of rain, tell sceptical kids
about games they played with chestnuts

and string, about vinegar, sore knuckles,
woollen gloves. Explain again what frost is.


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