Bryony Littlefair - Women's Pamphlet Competition 2017 winner

Bryony Littlefair Giraffe

‘I can’t really remember my phone call with Debbie Taylor when she told me I’d won the competition – I think I said ‘are you serious’ a few times, and afterwards went outside and ran around for a bit because I was so excited. Mslexia is a fantastic magazine and Seren publishes some of my very favourite poets, so to have a pamphlet out with them feels incredible.

It can be difficult to feel like what you are doing as a poet matters and that you should keep working hard and putting your stuff out there. I work full-time, and beyond my monthly workshop group at the Poetry School, I don’t really know anyone who reads and writes poetry seriously, so it’s easy to feel alone and faintly ridiculous in what I’m doing. Opportunities like these competitions are so important because it’s a voice saying that this is important, it does matter, keep going.’

BRYONY LITTLEFAIR studied English and Philosophy at York University. She now manages volunteers for the charity The Reader, and works in marketing for a community centre in Kilburn.


What did the judge say?

Poems need a head, heart, and soul – but this particular pamphlet has an extra ingredient: a feminist kick! Bryony Littlefair is acutely aware of women’s lives and gives us mothers, daughters, grandmothers, friends, colleagues whose adventures or misadventures we become increasingly eager to discover. It begins unobtrusively with ‘Tara Miller’, a childhood memory of a ‘bad’ friend; then moves on to a poem with one of my favourite recent first lines: ‘I’m wondering if my Grandmother has ever said the word “fuck” ’. Next we meet a working woman trying to concentrate during a meeting, wondering ‘Is there a place / the time goes that women have been / listening to men? All those hours irrecoverable…’

There is a good deal of wit on display, but also a warm humanity – reflected in what I later discovered about the poet’s work with charities. I like the novelistic qualities in these poems: the realism and clarity of language. She also has a winning way with the vernacular; the poems are deceptively plain, but have real style and bite.

The title poem ‘Giraffe’ is one of several prose poems in the collection. I used to think they weren’t ‘real’ poems, but I now believe they’re simply another poetic form in the tool box. In this particular one the lines have a compelling rhythm; as such, it is a poem that doesn’t pretend to be prose. Prose poems often borrow virtues from fiction, setting up a strong atmosphere and implied narrative.

Amy Wack, Poetry Editor, Seren Books

Congratulations to the other highly commended entries

  • Christina Lloyd, From Maps and Albums
  • Hilary Hares, Raking the Gravel Garden
  • Isabella Mead, Dear Rwanda
Excited to have my flash selected for this month's Little Ms Flashcard. Thanks Mslexia.
Kerrin Leeb