Miranda Peake - Women's Poetry Competition 2014 winner

Miranda Peake, ‘Florence’

I was at work when Debbie Taylor rang to tell me that I’d won the poetry competition, after I’d spoken to her I went back into the office and jumped up and down for about five minutes! Since then the news has gradually sunk in and I couldn’t be more delighted. It’s hugely encouraging and exciting to have such a positive response to my writing and it has given me the impetus to work harder and develop my poetry in new ways. As part of my prize I spent a wonderful week at Cove Park during August. It was a luxury to have time and space to write and it was an enormously productive and enjoyable week for me. Winning this competition has given me the incentive to make writing my main focus over the next year and beyond – I’m so grateful to Mslexia.

Miranda Peake is 39 and lives in London, where she organises dance classes in school for the Royal Academy of Dance. She writes for 10 hours a week, mainly in the evenings after work, mainly on an uncomfortable stool in her kitchen – avoiding the temptation of TV crime dramas. She’s terrified of public speaking, but was cajoled recently into reading her poems at the Troubadour. ‘Florence’ is her first published poem.

What did the judge say?

I was on a train when Miranda Peake’s ‘Florence’ came to the top of the little pile I had with me. Read it once. Said ‘Yes!’ Read it again. Liked it even more. The opening lines, about taking grief on holiday and comforting it with shopping, food and drink, won me over straight away. And she keeps up that standard right through the poem. ‘Our grief’s grown up, grown a little taciturn’. That’s good. So is the bit about ‘showing off at family gatherings.’ The poem is believable, moving, and technically accomplished. It flows. The line-breaks are in the right place. She has found a strong ending.

Wendy Cope OBE was a primary school teacher until the age of 40, when her first book, Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis, was published. Since then she has earned her living as a freelancer. Her most recent collection of poems is Family Values (2011). Two Cures for Love (2008) is a selection from her first three books. She has also written for children and edited several anthologies. One of very few poets whose work has reached the bestseller lists, she has won awards on both sides of the Atlantic. She has judged numerous competitions, including the Booker Prize and the National Poetry Competition. November 2014 will see the publication of Life, Love and The Archers, a collection of prose pieces, including extracts from a previously unpublished memoir.

Congratulations to all the other finalists

  • Miranda Yates, ‘Miniature gardens’ (2nd prize)
  • Lois Williams, ‘Immaterial’ (3rd prize)
  • Sue Norton, ‘Inga, Cape Town’
  • Rachel Burns, ‘Blue dress’
  • Victoria Gatehouse, ‘Blackpool’
  • Nicola Currie, ‘The border wall’
  • Eleanor Porter, ‘Lush’
  • Aileen Ballantyne, ‘In the garden’
  • Claire Askew, ‘Jack’
  • Catherine Lucie, ‘Skype call’
  • Jackie Wills, ‘Letter from Johnny on the Umgeni to Durban’
  • Theresa Bradley, ‘Spring flowers’
  • Jacqueline Mézec, ‘Halloween power cut’
  • Gráinne Tobin, ‘Soiled’
  • Barbara Cumbers, ‘Wedding anniversary’
  • Subhadramati, ‘The message’
  • Alison Prince, ‘The form
  • Jennifer Copley, ‘A marriage’
  • Angela T Carr, ‘After the storm’
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Sophie Livall