12 December 2020

English-language poem by authors internationally (adult), judged by poet Tishani Doshi

WINNER: Charlotte Eichler, United Kingdom

Poem Title: Woman and Wall

Selected Artwork: Mohammed Issiakhem, Woman and Wall, 1977-78

The poet said she was drawn by the painting’s “ghostly atmosphere,” while judge Tishani Doshi, who selected the work, called it both an “unfurling and a containment.” She said, “The assurance with which the poem moves and shifts registers impressed me. There’s a mirroring aspect throughout, in the body the poem describes, as well as the language used to describe that body. The poet seems intent on showing us the constraints – whether it’s the “bars of my ribs” or “the town’s violet limits,” but is also contrasting these with a kind of emancipation, an opening – “blue shimmers through us.” There is insistence in this poem, of being alive, of giving life. The last stanza and that final image of the storks clacking beaks – the “hard kind of love in dirty nests,” devastated me. This is the voice of a poet who understands both beauty and restraint, using empty space in the poem not just to offer breath, but to hint at unspoken things.”

RUNNER UP: Sofia Ezdina, Russia

Poem Title: Uncharted Map of the Body and Remembrance of Childhood

Selected Artwork: Huguette Caland, Bribes de Corps, 1971

Of the poem, Doshi said, “I fell in love with the rich landscape of this poem. Language and image work together in a thrilling way to map the territory of childhood, place, and body. To juxtapose the taiga of river ice and blueberry thickets with damp housing estates, to contrast “port light” with “watermelon light” – this is a dexterous poet who sees all the hues of the world. I found so much magic in this poem – it led me into unfamiliar worlds (where elk have to walk days to lose antler, of kraken and craters and whales reigning over a reef). It reminded me of that electric quality of experiencing wildness. By the time we arrive at the last sentence– “the pines here are frighteningly/ high” – we are well invested in this poet’s dream.”

More about the judge and winning poets:

Tishani Doshi is an award-winning poet, novelist and dancer. Her most recent books are Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods, shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Poetry Award, and a novel, Small Days and Nights, shortlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize and a New York Times Bestsellers Editor’s Choice. A God at the Door (poems), is forthcoming in spring 2021. She is a visiting professor of creative writing at New York University Abu Dhabi, and otherwise, lives on a beach in Tamil Nadu, India. More at: www.tishanidoshi.com.

Charlotte Eichler lives and works in West Yorkshire. Her poems have appeared in magazines including PN Review, The Rialto and Stand. A selection of her work is forthcoming in Carcanet’s New Poetries VIII anthology and her debut pamphlet, Their Lunar Language, was published by Valley Press in 2018.

Sofia Ezdina is an emerging writer from Russia. Her works have appeared in Jalada Africa, FU Review and The Revelator.