Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

"the Bridport Prize anthology 2017" (Redcliffe Press, 2017)

I've not heard of most of these writers - which isn't surprising. One of their bios mentions a single success - being commended in the Ware poetry competition. For the author of the Flash winner this is their first published work.

Lem Sissay, the poetry judge, wrote "I absolutely loved this poem. It is one of the greatest poems about childhood abuse that I've ever read" about a poem he only commended. I preferred the 2nd poem to the 1st, and Julia Bell's poem to the 3rd. "I am pig" is daring - how do its line-breaks help? As Sissay pointed out, other judges could easily have had different opinions. I suspect that Flash is currently most prone to such unpredictability, and short stories least vulnerable.

The short story judge noted that "One of the odd trends this year was the number of entries with child narrators". The winning story ("Esther" by Nicholas Ruddock) has a decent plot coated by a style you'll love or hate. Here's a sample sentence

Yet still my wife persisted, saying she would nip it in the bud, so to speak, whatever it was, even if it were the most innocent of flowers, a daisy or a buttercup, and not a Venus fly-trap or a pitcher plant, and so she went to him, to his porch one spring morning, suggesting that Esther was old enough to no longer need cards and present, that a smile, a wave would be enough for her, please, and he acquiesced, saying of course, of course, he wanting nothing but happiness for Esther, and so the cards and presents stopped, and Esther's birthdays went unrecognized except by her direct nuclear family, one birthday to the next until she was in high school excelling at mathematics, physics, track and field, and going to parties and dances, until, finally, as all children must, she left home, to Montreal, to McGill university, leaving the bedroom empty, from her being just six pounds and sleeping in her crib to grown-and-gone in seventeen years, our Jupiter's fifth moon lost to gravitational field, a sharp absence but one we had to accept, and would not have wanted otherwise, as parents.

The 2nd prize-winner was impressive too. The 3rd was less of a bravura performance, and less good, though its ending was very neat. Better I thought was the shorter "Girvan Blues". I wasn't convinced by "The Cockerel", "It must be true", or "Verichrome" and though "Old harbour" is well written it's a standard template filled with standard emotion - I feel I've read it before even if I haven't. I wasn't impressed by "The Best Thing" either - I'm probably being too purist in disliking "torn strips of laughter flying everywhere" and "colours slid and tinkled like turning locks" in a first person PoV story with an 8 year old protagonist (p.118).

I like the winning Flash piece by Terry Warren. The unplaced "On the Seventy Third Day" was ok too.


  1. Dear Tim

    To be honest, I prefer shorter sentences and enhanced clarity. In yesterday's Sunday Times, there was an interesting article about twelve contemporary poets to follow. I didn't necessarily agree with Patricia Niool's selections but at least it wasn't just another parade of the usual suspects.

    Best wishes from Simon R Gladdish

  2. Dear Tim

    I meant, of course, Patricia Nicol. God knows how that happened!

    Best wishes from Simon