Penny Boxall - Mslexia/PBS Women's Poetry Competition 2018 winner

Penny Boxall, ‘A wedding list’

‘I’d spent the morning at The Forbidden Corner, a series of follies and underground skulduggery in the Yorkshire Dales which describes itself as “the strangest place in the world”, and was still in a slightly dreamlike state of mind when I learned that I’d won. I was overjoyed. Above all, it is immensely comforting to think that someone has read and found interest in a poem that I’d written in isolation – especially, perhaps, when the poem is unusual, a step away from the themes I normally write about. I hadn’t written anything for a while before I heard the news; in the days since, I’ve written new poems, and ideas are presenting themselves again. I feel more confident in my writing, and – most of all – very grateful.’

PENNY BOXALL is 31 and works as a Development Manager at Shandy Hall (Laurence Sterne’s house). She is a great procrastinator, but finds herself motivated to write by friends sharing the details of their writing lives. Her poetry collections are Who Goes There? (Valley Press, 2018) and Ship of the Line (Eyewear 2014, reissued by Valley Press 2018). Ship won the Edwin Morgan Poetry Award in 2016. Last year she wrote a historical children’s novel in a week. She hasn’t yet recovered.

What did the judge say?

‘The winning poem – ‘A wedding list’ by Penny Boxall – impressed me immediately because it managed to achieve so much in just 16 lines. This is a poet who obviously reads a lot of contemporary poetry. I especially like the way she plays with cliché, her subtle use of rhyme, and how she develops the rhyme scheme. I thought it was rather Larkinesque – though that’s not why I chose it! And I found its theme, of a relationship that’s not working, very moving.’

DAME CAROL ANN DUFFY DBE FRSL HonFBA HonFRSE is a Scottish poet and playwright. She is Professor of Contemporary Poetry at Manchester Metropolitan University, and was appointed Britain’s Poet Laureate in May 2009, the first woman, the first Scot, and the first openly gay or bisexual poet to hold the position. Her collections include Standing Female Nude, winner of a Scottish Arts Council Award; Selling Manhattan, which won a Somerset Maugham Award; Mean Time, which won the Whitbread Poetry Award; and Rapture, winner of the T S Eliot Prize.

Congratulations to the other winners and finalists

  • SECOND PRIZE: Rosemary McLeish, ‘Red Rebecca (A song of the Hebrides)’
  • THIRD PRIZE: Laura Jenner, ‘Mrs Snowball’
  • PRIZE FOR PREVIOUSLY UNPUBLISHED POET: Emma Hellyer, ‘Lemon studies in nine segments’
  • Brooke Baker Belk, ‘For Chase, leaving for China’
  • Judy Brown, ‘On not leaving the house all day’
  • Jeanette Burton, ‘I write Christmas cards whilst listening to a report on Swiss guinea pigs’
  • Geraldine Clarkson, ‘Out-of-hours’
  • Natalie Crick, ‘Chadlington Village, Hampshire’
  • Kerry Darbishire, ‘Planting parsley with my father’
  • Harriet David, ‘The diet of John the Baptist’
  • Nicola Garrard, ‘Birch syrup’
  • Mari Girling, ‘Specimen’
  • A P Hill, ‘Labour’
  • Aileen La Tourette, ‘Porches’
  • Michal Leibowitz, ‘Pink’
  • Rachael Matthews, ‘do not be lulled by the dainty starlike blossoms’
  • Pauline Plummer, ‘Swallowing Ireland’
  • Lynn Thornton, ‘Heatwave’
  • Katie Watson, ‘Toast’
Excited to have my flash selected for this month's Little Ms Flashcard. Thanks Mslexia.
Kerrin Leeb