The winners of the Allingham Festival Flash Fiction and Poetry Winners have been released, along with comments by the judges on each piece. Congratulations to all the winners, who have now been invited to attend the Awards Ceremony at the Literary Lunch in Nirvana Restaurant on Saturday Nov. 11th, where they will also get a chance to read their work. Judges Moya Cannon and Paul Lynch will also be in attendance. Well done to everyone who took part this year. Hopefully we'll see some of you at the Awards Ceremony this year, or perhaps in future years.
1. "Exploring You" by Karen O'Connor
2. "My Grandfather's Glasses in a Cracked Leather Case" by Siobhan Flynn
3. "The Astronomer" by Olivia Kenny McCarthy,
1. "Falling From Here" by Una Mannion
2. "No Hidden Nightingale" by Chris Connolly
3. "Waiting" by Mary Angland
Comments on Poetry:
1st: Exploring You – Karen O'Connor
This is an extraordinarily tender poem about a parent bathing a little girl, yet not for one moment does the writing slip into sentimentality. The language is fresh and most unexpected, as when the parent refers to the little daughter’s carcass bones’. The writer expresses a desire both to hold the child safe in her bathrobe and to hold the moment of intimacy.
‘We will not come here again, you and I,/ we will not revisit this, but move on to routine and tomorrow……I don’t want to forget your crazy song and sing along. Or how you invited me to dip my feet in the bath.’
Although the writer is telling us of how fleeting this moment, this stage of a child’s life, is, she or he here achieves in words what Cezanne urged an artist to do when he said:— ‘A moment in the life of the world is passing by. Capture it in paint!’
2nd: My Grandfather’s Glasses In a Cracked Leather Case – Siobhan Flynn
We are led obliquely into a narrative. The story unfolds itself slowly and intrigueingly. This is a story full of a wonderfully understated, restrained emotion which is frequently projected onto objects:— old glasses; a demobbed First World War soldier’s puttees redeployed back home on the farm to protect him from ticks; the Lee Enfield rifles carried by Black and Tans. The story is brought together skilfully and emotion released in the powerful last line.
This is a poem which works largely because the writer knows what to leave out. It reminds us very strongly of Emily Dickinson’s advice ‘Tell the truth but tell it slant.’
3rd: The Astronomer – Olivia Kenny McCarthy
This poem stands out because of its concision and its precision of observation. The texture of the language reflects the texture of what is being described—‘damask cloth folded back’, ‘dawn filters/through the wrinkled glass’, ‘a constellation of splintered stars’.
The writer’s detachment from the scene allows the reader to step right into it and savour the atmosphere created in a few short lines.
What makes the poem, however, is the shift of emphasis at the beginning of the third stanza. The astronomer’s touch on the globe is, surprisingly ‘a lover’s touch’ a phrase which would be a cliché in other contexts. Here it allows an unexpected emotional warmth to enter the poem, which continues to lift as we read of ‘a heart threaded to the sky’. Alliteration and assonance help to make for a very satisfying final couplet.
Comments on Flash fiction:
No 1: Una Mannion – Falling From Here
From its declarative opening, “Night fell”, we enter a world thoroughly evoked by language. The narrator tells of a seminal childhood encounter with failure, grief, disappointment and death. But it is the texture and rhythms of the language itself — not the facts of the narration — that make this story felt. The dark that falls here, and that rests always at the edges of this story is, in fact, an awakening to adult life, to complexity, to the unknown, to death. There is real ambition at work here.
No 2: Chris Connolly – No Hidden Nightingale
All writing is, in one way or another, a failure. But here is a story that takes on failure — the failure of a failed writer, the failure of a life lived in loneliness and invisibility and facing imminent suicide — and does so successfully. It unfolds with a crisp, threadbare narration, but there is at work a sly detachment and self-awareness that is quietly, acerbically comic. What impressed was the story’s final line, how the invisibility and self-abnegation of the character carries through to the end, so that the last word does not even fall to him, but to the neediness and self-absorption of another. He is truly invisible.
No 3: Mary Angland – Waiting
This is a story that forces us to use our imagination, to see and feel in our mind the unseen horror that is approaching. No doubt, it is set in a world we have seen nightly on our TVs in some foreign country, but it is a world of the Other, a world we so rarely imagine for ourselves. This story locates us fully within this world without resorting to a history, a culture or even a country. It is an archetypical, deeply human situation told with an admirable simplicity that unfolds, step by step, with a mounting sense of dread.