Through the fog of this past few weeks I’ve been a judge. There’s been over fourteen thousand, a record number in the history of the prize. Fourteen thousand poems for the Foyles young poets prize. With my top one hundred I arrive at The Poetry Society on Betterton Street in Covent Garden to meet the other judge for the first time.
Selima Hill is sat in the cafe. She has her choice one hundred poems I have mine. I open the door. It’s a scene of a western. The bar woman behind the poetry cafe counter at the far end of the room polishes a glass and looks at me. I enter with my fistful of of A4.
The door swings closed behind me. Selima turns in her seat. The table’s covered with her A4. Could be a gun.
A moustachioed man draws his fingers across a Spanish guitar: One Chord. Selima squints as the sunlight splashed across her face. I walk slowly towards the table. Another hand draws across the strings of the Spanish guitar. I chew my fat cigar “hear yer judging the competition….” Selima looks down and tilts her cowboy hat backwards “maybe I am” she drawls then spits into a spittoon. Ting. A bead of sweat trickles down my forehead
and skydives towards the table in slow motion. She catches it in her fist. I draw my right arm over to the bag . She flinches. “slowly now slowly” and we both sit down watching each other for one false move and the judgeing begins.