It’s Publication Day for Bewitched and Other Stories! And as we know, I threw a creative writing contest out there to celebrate.
The rules were simple: write a poem or a flash fiction of 15 lines or 150 words maximum, using a song title for the title, and include love/anti-romance, witchcraft, travel and/or a literary reference.
Judging the competition was not as simple. Why are you all so good at writing? FFS.
But anyway, I whittled 28 anonymous entries down to 12 … down to 10 … down to 8, until I got to the final five. And here, without further ado, are the winners of books, merch, fame, and/or glory.
Our winner winner, chicken dinner is…
Since I’ve Been Loving You
by Danielle Matthews
Numbers dominate my vision, blurring together in a haze of incomprehensible structure. My mind is freedom, is wild and untamed, and numbers are order. Structure.
Bus timetables are everything to me, and they are nothing but numbers. I hate them with the indispensable nature and crippling layout, but I travel a lot recently. I have to. If I stop then the great crushing weight of everything catches up with me.
So I ride the buses and frown at the timetables, and miss you with a physicality that scares me. The lack of your hands on my hips causes an ache that rots into my bones each night. My eyes get lost with Notes From the Underground, but they weep and hurt without you to behold.
So I travel. I fight with bus timetables and numbers and remind myself that my mind is freedom, wild, untamed.
I loved Danielle’s use of bus timetables and numbers to calm the narrator’s mind as they travel, and the mention of Dostoyevsky, and of course, the anxious anti-romance tone of the flash.
You can keep up with Danielle and her writing on her Facebook page.
(Title originally used by Led Zeppelin.)
And here’s another winner –
Shake Your Love
by Amanda Oaks
You always did have this way
of shaking your love
all over the goddamn place,
for days after, I’d find it
stuck like glitter behind my knees,
find it unfazed in the hammock
between my thumb & index finger,
find it smitten with sleeping
in the slope of my collarbone,
but every story
has some current of air
threaded through it— breath,
gale, storm & ours:
The Tornadic Winds
Again, here’s love, but not idealised – and Amanda managed to make a meaningful, clever poem from the title of a Debbie Gibson song (one I might’ve owned on vinyl when I was eight years old, but you didn’t hear that from me…). The images are wonderful – love being shaken ‘all over the goddamn place’ and being ‘stuck like glitter behind my knees’ made me far too happy. This piece couldn’t lose.
Amanda’s website is amandaoaks.com, if you dig this poem and want to read more of her work.
And there are three runners up…
Losing My Religion
by Amy Kinsman
Your face disappeared into the setting sun
and your voice into the rumble of thunder.
You never said that I was like the ocean
come again to prostrate itself against the shore
and be dragged away by the moon’s gravity,
As has remained the case since we began,
But what you meant was that my falling face
was pathetic fallacy of my own making.
The wonder left in the world is a tomb;
We exchange old pantheons for new
and, slowly, each blasphemy erodes.
Even you become inconsequential.
‘This poet included pathetic fallacy as their literary reference! This poem is so shortlisted! Every other literary reference has been a book!’ I shouted, as I read through the entries. Not the only reason I picked this one, of course – it’s a good poem, and the last four lines are particularly clever – but it was a unique touch all the same.
You can visit Amy’s blog here.
(I shouldn’t have to say this, but the title song is by REM.)
by AB Cooper
Sausalito ’76. As tides slip unseen
beyond a February-grey shoreline,
recrimination is chronicled in Rumours.
A 6×9 metre wooden box holds heartache
corded in bittersweet harmony:
love and loss bound in strophic form –
coda du coeur rendered in high fidelity.
And the songbirds are singing like they know the score…
They know the score.
I’m a sucker for Fleetwood Mac (and if anyone did confusing anti-romance well in their real lives, it was this band), and this poem even incorporates a line from ‘Songbird’ into the ‘love and loss’ theme. So much wonderful phrasing in this piece; I especially loved the way ‘coda du coeur’ chimes with ‘they know the score’ – but it’s all beautiful.
by Liz Hedgecock
Alice was a biddable, pretty child, nurse to her playmates. Then she turned fourteen, and the squire’s son noticed her.
‘He’ll drop you the minute he’s told to,’ I warned.
‘He won’t.’ Alice smiled and shook her curls, and I felt her glamour for the first time.
Two months later she came in muttering, and slammed the door.
The parson bade us pray for the young master; but gossip travels faster than prayer.
Alice was calm as still water when the mob bore her to the river. She barely made a splash. We waited, and two of her friends began to weep.
Alice came to me that night. Her hair gleamed silver, and her eyes dazzled like sunshine on spray. ‘Were you afraid?’ she asked.
‘No,’ I whispered, holding her close. I wasn’t afraid for my daughter. I was afraid of her, as my own mother had feared me.
The take on witchcraft and love here is creepy, but underneath, it’s also sad. This story stayed with me, and couldn’t be ignored. Bewitching…
Liz’s writing, and her thoughts on writing (and womaning), can be found on her website.
(And the song ‘Daughter’ is by Loudon Wainwright III.)
So there we are: five ace pieces of new poetry and flash fiction for your reading pleasure.
Thanks to everyone who entered their poems and flash fiction, and celebrated the gorgeous absurdity of life and love and music and magic and literature with me. And oh yeah, that reminds me: if anyone does in fact want to buy a copy of Bewitched and Other Stories, you can get one here.