As it’s Halloween tonight, we thought you might like to read this ghostly poem by Helen Mort, who will be judging the Single Poem category of our Women’s Poetry Competition this year. 

When we asked Helen what she’ll be looking for in the winning poems (the first prize is £2,000, but we publish all 20 finalists in the magazine), she listed ten valuable pieces of advice. Here’s one of them:

‘Ted Hughes implied that the best impulse for a poem is an itch you need to scratch. I’m looking for the sense that your poem investigates a preoccupation you have, or reveals something that intrigues you.’

We’re wondering what particular itch prompted this atmospheric poem...


Vanishing Point


Avenues of trees.

Avenues of hairless, silver trees that never touch. Avenues

that bring the evening to its knees, stooping to enter their tunnel,


trees that wear new rain

like a transparent glove, or hold their branches shakily

in front of them like hands, spotted with someone else's blood.


Avenues of trees

that lean, still drunk at dawn, dreaming

new names for themselves: parades of trees, armies of pale trees.


No. Avenues of trees

under avenues of night air. Planned, tended avenues

curling down the hill to Sablon like loosed hair, like a word on your tongue 


allée, venir, the accent

wrong, a language you can almost hear 

when I breathe against your cheek, breathe in your ear, and shut my eyes


go down with you through

avenues of painted trees, trees oiled in shadow, framed

and held, imaginary trees that wait as if you could enter them.


Avenues of trees.

Avenues of poplar, lime. The long, lined year, the avenue

I watch you walking down and follow you and can't get near.


The deadline for the competition is not until 5 December, so there’s lots of time to give your best poems a last polish, or start something new.

A list of wild and woolly prompts will be winging its way to anyone who has signed up to receive our Writing Opportunities mailings. (If you’ve missed the full list of Helen’s top tips, email and ask Rosie or Isobel to send them to you.)


HELEN MORT lives in Chesterfield and is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University. She used to be phobic of dogs, but cured that by adopting one. Now she lists dogs as one of the things that prevent her from writing, along with climbing, running (she once ran a sub-three hour marathon!), and saying 'yes' to too many things. She is addicted to Derbyshire and obsessed with whippets. 

The Author

Helen Mort Image

Helen Mort

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