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Double Win for Festival Poet

JERSEY’S main poetry prize has been won by the same writer for the second year in a row.

The Alan Jones Prize, the main award in the Jersey Festival of Words Poetry Competition, has gone to David Evans, who was also the winner in 2019. Judges considered his poem Hadleigh Ray, a meditation on the life and death of a Thames Estuary birdwatcher, to be an outstanding new work of literature.

Second place was awarded to Samantha Schreiner, a new name among the winners, and third place to Traci O’Dea, who has been successful in previous competitions.

The competition, which includes cash prizes, is open to Jersey-born or Jersey-

resident entrants. Mr Evans, who also writes fiction and plays, was co-founder of a theatre company in Brighton before moving to the Island as a public sector executive; Ms Schreiner is a human resources executive from South Africa; and Ms O’Dea is an American writer who featured in last year’s Festival when she hosted an Opera House poetry lunch with dishes inspired by some of her poems.

In this year’s 9-13 age category, first prize went to Evie MacDonald (12), with Thomas Cohu (11) in second place and Toby Scott (11) in third.

The standard of entries in both categories was once again very high, although festival organisers were disappointed that there were none in the 14-17 age group and that a planned awards ceremony, already curtailed by the Covid-19 restrictions, had to be cancelled when they were further tightened.

The poetry competition commemorates Jersey poet and teacher Alan Jones (1940-2013), an anthology of whose work helped to launch the Jersey Festical of Words in 2015. Entries were once again judged anonymously by poet Jacqueline Mézec, former JEP editor Chris Bright (both members of the festival committee) and former States cultural development officer Rod McLoughlin.

The main Jersey Festival of Words, due to take place at the end of September, was also cancelled because of the pandemic but plans are already taking shape for the return of a full programme in 2021.

In its place, a number of podcasts have been produced featuring writers who had been scheduled to appear. They include Islanders who have written new works across a range of genres, among them bestselling novelists Peter James and Sophie Cousens, elder statesman Pierre Horsfall, whose memoirs are published this month, traveller and vegan convert Caroline Earle and acclaimed BBC film-maker Jonathan Renouf, as well as festival patron Cathy Rentzenbrink, whose new book, Dear Reader, celebrates the power and value of books throughout life.

All poems will feature in a special festival podcast to be released later this week, and will be printed as part of an upcoming JEP pullout. Mr Evans' winning poem is reproduced below.

All current Festival podcasts are available at

Hadleigh Ray

An axe makes quick work of the old chair -

the one they found him in.

Sandy coloured foam bursts through tartan fabric,

bulging like blubber that burns black in the backyard oil drum.

This house bares the tells of a loner’s home;

the inevitable effect of neglect on a one-man habitat.

True home, if the heart’s a compass,

was always a walk away. A place of creeks and tides,

the companionable mire at the edges of estuary.

Sounds of salt marsh and mudflats rush straight and loud

filling up parsimonious rooms as clearance men

evaluate a dead man’s movables, a personal history.

Dark-bellied Brent Geese, raucous in flocks,

brag-bray grazing the dense beds of eel-grass as a pencil

cuts along paper, softly recording, calculating.

Stains the colour of estuarine silt spot the ceiling,

buckets never emptied, under a roof never fixed.

Seaweed on a lintel, raincoats or sun hats?

Samphire, purslane, sea aster.

A hemisphere splits and slips into another, cracks

at the equator, a slow reveal of a bottled core.

Bourbon. Malt. Gin… something yellow, untouched,

picked up, brought back from Franco’s Spain.

Might make fifty maybe fifty-five?

Bird books and binoculars always fetch a few bob.

Did he fly the length of Hadleigh Ray?

Remember, for a moment, how air tasted there?

The owl spectral through mist, elegant at hunt,

the pelting call of the whimbrel over bleak waters?

He was sipping whiskey, a recording of birdsong

on the stereo, his glass dropped and rolled.

David Evans

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