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Poets from around the world celebrate mid-Wales’ uplands

The results are now in for the first international Cambrian Mountains Poetry competition. It was enthusiastically received in the literary world, with nearly 130 entries submitted. 

As well as 30 Welsh poets, writers from Australia to Utah as well as France and the British Isles (including Shetland as well as both North and South of Ireland) joined in.  Prizes are being awarded for the best poems in Welsh and in English, with a select few competitors penning entries in both languages. 

The poems were judged by three local writers: former National Eisteddfod winners Vernon Jones and Cyril Jones, alongside landscape and travel writer Julie Brominicks.   Says Julie “Some strong themes emerged from the poems – love, loss, grief, belonging, language and the passing of time.  Many demonstrated why for so many of us, landscape is a source of hope and solace, and something to which we have very personal connections – demonstrating why land use is so passionately debated.  The entries also reveal the power of poetry to allow otherwise quiet voices to be head.  By listening to each other, we respect that our differing opinions come from deep wells of emotion. ”

The Cambrian Mountains Society, which organised the competition, will be giving out the prizes at a literary event in The Library, Neuadd Pantyfedwen in Pontrhydfendigaid, Ceredigion on 2 March 2024.  

The judging was completely anonymous, which allowed for a thrilling surprise for Mari Tudor of Bala.  In what judge Vernon Jones said was a close contest, she came away with both first AND second prizes for best Welsh poems. 

First prize for a poem in English went to professional writer Kirsten Mears for her poem Traces recalling a visit to Powys, with John Gallas, a New Zealander now living in England, in second place for above it all: dangerous vision.  John, an established poet who has done several residencies at Stiwdio Maelor in Corris near Machynlleth, says he’s “super-pleased” as his father was a mountaineer and all his growing up memories are of “jumping crevasses and standing (wobblilly) on peaks”.  

First place in the Mid-Wales Poetry prize goes to Jemma King for her poem The Valley reflecting on the drowning of the Elan Valley.  Jemma, who lives on the edge of the Cambrians, previously won the Terry Hetherington Young Writers Award and her debut poetry collection, The Shape of a Forest, was long-listed for the Dylan Thomas award.  Runner up was Gareth Writer-Davies of Pencelli, for his poem Red Flags recalling the World War II clearance of farms from the Epynt.

All are welcome to come along on 2 March to hear the judges’ panel discussing the entries and the theme of poetry and landscape. Full details, including the shortlist of poems, can be found on the Cambrian Mountains Society’s website at www.cambrian-mountains.co.uk/poetry.