National Poetry Day (Oct 4, 2012) Writers’ Dock Competition Winning Entry by James Clayton
Russ Jones comments on James Clayton’s winning submission:
Stars Racing in the Menai Straights is an unusual take on this year’s topic, Stars, but it brings the cosmic and the earthly together to great effect. As good poetry often does, this poem makes the seemingly everyday seem exotic, and the exotic seem familiar. It sets the reader sailing, almost races ahead of itself through the use of well conceived lists that maintain a nearly hypnotic phonic quality. Stars Racing in the Menai Straights hints at something otherworldly, as it shifts between parts of boats and coastlines and the planetary bodies of our solar system, never losing sight of its place as it returns to the mountains of Snowdonia. This is an original, well conceived, well executed and memorable poem, and a worthy winner of the Writers’ Dock poetry competition to mark National Poetry Day 2012.
Stars Racing in the Menai Straits
Orion, Jupiter, Mercury, Mars
Stella and Capella,
six Stars race the Menai Straits.
Past Caernarfon, below the Britannia Bridge
around Puffin Island and back to Beaumaris.
Sixteen feet, varnished wood and red sails, Gaff rigged
Gull winged, running before the wind with the tidal race
flooding through narrow water
between Anglesey and Snowdonia.
Orion leads the way, Paul and Pauline, in their eighties,
childhood sweethearts, married forever,
Paul too blind to steer, trims the jib,
Pauline fights off rheumatism
holds the helm steady.
Past mud banks and shoaling currents.
through water where the Romans came
to burn the sacred Druid woods
of Ynys Mon.
A coastline fortified with Edward’s castles
Conway, Beaumaris and Caernarfon
built to break the spirit of the Welsh.
Yet still the mountains of Snowdonia
watch in silent, moody, majesty
six Stars racing on the Mania Straits.