Prole Laureate poetry competition, 2024, results.

Thank you to all who entered and huge appreciation for our judge, Maurice Devitt.


Charlotte Murray

Reclaim the Night (A Fox in King George’s Field)

Low slung, snout to the ground,  

a rustle and a flicker like flame moving up a string  


so that I’m left looking only at an absence.  

The October foliage is not yet as red as your coat. 


Even unwounded, you are the colour of old blood,  

a creature predestined to camouflage its hurt; 


constantly singed, as if dwelling too close to a bonfire.  

Here, the trees have built their own cathedral: 


the day’s last light leaks through stained glass leaves  

as mist rises like smoke. You have wrapped yourself  


in the blanket of dusk, pulled the gloom tight  

around twitching ears. Burnished amber eyes  


swing from side to side, pendulum vision.  

You are a dying sun; it is impossible for you 


to be invisible in all but the darkest mouth of night.  

Best not to linger too long  


where car headlights and drunken voices  

draw a target on your divisive body.  


We both know where the gap in the fence  

by the chicken coop is; have both  


had to learn the calligraphy of escape routes.  

Your pupils narrow to slits as you weigh the risk  


against the jut of your ribs, the howl of your hunger.  

Sometimes it’s not food you crave, but the snap  


of your own jaws; another being’s blood spilled  

in the dirt, swamping your senses, staining your fur. 



Runners Up

Patrick Lodge

On Luskentyre Sands (Outer Hebrides)

(for GML)


it is an empress of a day    a sky so absolute   

you reach up   grasp nothing   grasp everything


the sea is deep ultramarine  a mantle   casually 

discarded   beyond the shore   all is promise 


but I want no assumptions   I sit on the rock for her   

she walks the beach for me   we may share later


she brought me here   a place scoured by glacier slide  

buffed glossy by ocean tide   to find a delight  


in the shell-rich sands   painted   by a broad-brush 

sun  its palette   a shimmering impasto   white 


on white   as if radiance itself   had been kneaded   

in a holy ceremony   proved glorious   until form 


and space   are things of conjecture   nothing 

is as it seems   anything can happen


so the beach fills   with pilgrims   blowing through   

beyond dunes   high as heaven   they flow 


rapt for a shrine   as waves searching   for a shore 

to lap    for a tide to turn   a rite of passage   


in the liminal   between sea and land   where 

the bleached blaze   may lose or find you   


in a nonsuch moment   I see her now   walking 

towards me   a private revelation    framed 


in a niche of light   almost an apparition   hand raised   

a ritual gesture   ensuring no evil will eye me   


she waves   says that here   on these sands   in such 

times   today is always her favourite day


Eithne Lannon

Down by the brown rusty reeds 
with daylight fading through the sky,
late swallows sweep the low grasses, 
insects drowse over peaty ground.
In the meadow, long lines of tossed  
hay lead the evening into twilight,

a hare moves like a shadow.
Our boots tread the gravelly shallows,

damp fingers fidget, find the net,
tie the damsel nymph-fly, separate  

this from that, loosening the knots  
of the day, the why of being here.

Like silver leaves, trout whip their easy tails,  
briefly dance the air, hang      
and hold the eye. Rainbow-shivers  
slap on glassy water, gills knead  

the random flow. In the hushed trees,
owls float, feathers parting darkness—

night comes in, like a mantle  
unravelling the river, the mind

finding its own kind. And we cast out,
into the listening



Snow Sleep, by Ursula O’Sullivan-Dale

A Comprehensive Catholic Education, by Martin Malone

The Tao that can be spoken of is not the eternal Tao, by Charles Lauder Jnr

Remains, by Kristen Mears

What I don’t know, by Denise O’Hagen


Judge’s comments

Commentary on winning poems

Reclaim the Night (A Fox in King George’s Field)

Although foxes are a common subject for poetry, this poem stood out for me from the first time I read it. Measured and attentive, it leads us ‘like flame moving up a string’ through the quotidian event of a fox scavenging as the October night falls. Peppered with startling imagery - ‘I’m left looking only at an absence’, ‘the darkest mouth of night’ and ‘the trees have built their own cathedral’ - it is beautifully paced to mirror the stealth of the fox, the rhythm being reinforced mimetically by the slow, sinuous movement of the couplet form. While the poem ostensibly operates as a closely-observed ‘nature poem’, it also seems to reflect a deep empathy with the plight of the fox – ‘you are the colour of old blood, / a creature predestined to camouflage its hurt;’, a sense that occasionally leaks into personal disclosure on the part of the poet, as in the cryptic shared experience of, ‘We both know where the gap in the fence / by the chicken coop is; have both / had to learn the calligraphy of escape routes.’. The poem closes with a short existential riff on the motives of the fox, probably not too far from our own, ‘Sometimes it’s not food you crave, but the snap / of your own jaws…’. A real gem.

On Luskentyre Sands (Outer Hebrides)

Not knowing anything about Luskentyre Beach, I had to look it up and I wasn’t disappointed. To quote from the Hidden Scotland site, ‘With its expansive stretches of white sand and impossibly stunning blue-green water, it’s little surprise that Luskentyre has been rated one of the world’s top beaches’. While this description and the associated photographs gave me a suitable backdrop, nothing prepared me for the beauty of the poem, set up by the expansive first declaration, ‘it is an empress of a day’, the present tense throughout augmenting the sense of being there. Written in couplets without punctuation, the sense and rhythm of the poem are deftly controlled, both by line endings and explicit gaps, as caesurae, within the line. This has the effect of creating a feeling of light and awe, ‘painted by a broad-brush / sun its palette a shimmering impasto’, and seems to reflect both the luminosity of the white sand and ultramarine sea, and the panoramic breadth of a scene where ‘all is promise’. The ‘promise’ seems to allude to the love story that is the essence of the day, opening with a temporary separation, ‘I sit on the rock for her / she walks the beach for me’, followed quickly by the hopeful ‘we may share later’. The love story weaves in and out of a scene where ‘nothing / is as it seems anything can happen’, and where ‘the bleached blaze may lose or find you’, closing with just a hint of perfection, ‘on these sands in such / times today is always her favourite day’.


A beautifully meditative poem where everything seems to build towards the stillness of the final action, ‘And we cast out, / into the listening / silence.’, the dropped ‘silence’ creating a closing tension for the reader, as it follows the seemingly contradictory ‘listening’. The atmosphere is constructed patiently and with precision, opening with ‘daylight fading through the sky,’ as ‘long lines of tossed / hay lead the evening into twilight,’ and populating the scene with ‘late swallows’ and drowsing insects. The music of the poem is beautifully controlled, as assonance (‘hare’, ‘hay’), alliteration (‘swallows’, ‘sweep’) and internal half-rhymes (‘damp’, ‘damsel’) are sprinkled throughout. With echoes of the popular TV series ‘Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing’, the poem alludes to the poet’s internal monologue and the mental health benefits of fishing as a release from the stresses of a busy day - ‘separate / this from that, loosening the knots / of the day, the why of being here.’, while in parallel ‘night comes in, like a mantle / unravelling the river,’ as though preparing the way for that final act of letting go.

Maurice Devitt



Winner received £200 and upcoming publication in Prole, issue 35.

2 x runners up received £50 each and upcoming publication in issue 35.

Maurice Devitt

Born in Dublin, Maurice Devitt completed an MA in Poetry Studies at Mater Dei following a 30-year career in Insurance & Banking. His debut collection ‘Growing Up in Colour’ was published by Doire Press in 2018, and his second collection ‘Some of These Stories are True’ came out in May 2023.

His poems have featured in a significant number of journals, both in Ireland and internationally, and been nominated for Pushcart, Forward and Best of the Net prizes. He was a featured poet at the Poets in Transylvania Festival in 2015 and a guest speaker at the John Berryman Centenary Conference in both Dublin and Minneapolis. He is a past winner of the Trócaire/Poetry Ireland, Poems for Patience and Bangor Poetry Competitions, and has been placed or shortlisted in many others, including The Patrick Kavanagh Award, The Listowel Collection Competition and Cúirt New Writing Award.

Maurice is the chairperson of The Hibernian Writers’ Group, and his Pushcart-nominated poem, ‘The Lion Tamer Dreams of Office Work’, was the title poem of an anthology of the group’s work published by Alba Publishing in 2015. He is curator of the Irish Centre for Poetry Studies Facebook page where he posts featured poems, news and poetry articles on a daily basis. 

Prolitzer Prize for Prose, 2024


The Prolitzer Prize for Prose is now being judged.



Winner: £200, Publication in Prole, issue 35.

2 x runner up prizes of £50, publication in issue 35.


All entries will be anonymised and sent to our judge, Dave Wakely. (See below)

Time scale

We will accept entries until January 31st, 2024.

Winners and runners up will be announced in issue 35 of Prole and on our website.


We are, as ever, open regarding style and content. What we are after is fiction or creative nonfiction that epitomises the editorial values of Prole: to make writing engaging, accessible, entertaining and challenging. Quality is all. Word limit 2500. All work must be the original work of the writer and be unpublished.


£5.00 for first entry, £3.00 for any subsequent entries.

How to enter

Via our website and email – preferred.

Make the correct payment using the PayPal button. (below)

Email your entry, including the text and PayPal transaction number within the body of the email, to:

By post

Make a cheque (GBP only, please) payable to P Robertson for the correct amount and mail along with entry to:

P Robertson

27 Thornton Ave




Please select your purchase option

Dave Wakely

Raised in South London, Dave Wakely has worked as a musician, university administrator, poetry librarian and editor in cities across Europe. His shortstories and poems have been shortlisted for the Manchester Fiction and Bath Short Story awards, and appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. OnlineProgramme Manager for Milton Keynes Literary Festival and one of the organisers of the Lodestone Poets, he lives in Buckinghamshire with his husband, too manybooks, CDs and guitars.

Prole Laureate poetry competition, 2022


The results are in. The winner and runners up will be published in Prole 34 and win cash prizes of £300 and £75.

Congratulations - and many thanks to our judge, Ross Wilson. His comments can be read below the winning poems.


Isabella Mead

Blue Plaque for Cecilia Payne 


I first saw it at dusk, facing the moon:
a roundel, the royal blue of winter mist,
the white letters cut like patterns in ice
to mirror the Earth, or a twilit Space.

Holst himself urged her to study music,
join him in the balletic sweep of the planets,
the grandiosity of love and war and magic
but in very essence too blue and passive.

She preferred not planets but the stars,
studied the sun with strident attention,
measured its steadfast golden precession
towards an explosive vibrant summation

of hydrogen and helium and blinding light.
What marker for a thesis that surpassed the stars?
These days I’ve taken to timing my run
to pass her plaque at exactly midday,

see it shining and shadowless, almost gold
in a full stream of sunlight, and the words
appearing and disappearing by turns;
by turns again, illuminating and erasing her name.

Cecilia Payne (1900-1979) was an astrophysicist whose ground-breaking 1925 thesis concluded that the sun and stars were mainly made of hydrogen and helium. Cambridge did not award her a degree due to being a woman, and Harvard did not allow her to become a professor for many years for the same reason. Even today, male contemporaries are credited for her work.   

Runner up

Tim Relf



They come to my place to have sex – 
they’ve been at it all week. Behind glass 


I watch them daily drunk on heat and summer need, 
clattering shameless to their favourite spot. 


Wish they’d get a room, I say, stroking
the half-asleep dog at my feet, a memory stirring: 


because, yes, there were pigeons then too: 
the day me and Charlie went to the woods. I remember 


their five-syllabled song as we stumbled, fumbling,
clumsy-tender and cider-horny into a roadside thicket – 


pawing clawing clutching in sprays of gone-over 
May blossom and just-come cow parsley, teeth clashing 


and flashes of sky-blue denim – images unruffled 
until this blue-grey pair first burst, cooing, onto my lawn. 


But today all I can do is creep 
to the pane for a better look. Look: 


oblivious, they are, the filthy fuckers, 
full of soggy bread and stolen seed. I try clapping 


them away, but I might as well not be here, so toss 
my book aside and from the conservatory watch 


them wobble and weave and reflect 
on that teenage tryst. No. Don’t. Better, surely, to ogle 


two birds banging than peck at the husk of a former life 
or pore over poems in a borrowed book? 


Yes, I’ll gawk a little longer: 
the bowing and beak-locking 


the hopping and circling 
the sharing of spat-up food 


the climbing on 
climbing off 


climbing on 
climbing off 


then I’ll sigh and smoke, whispering 
to a dreaming dog, wondering 


if woodpigeons mate for life, then swinging 
the door to shoo the undone couple into flight. 

Bex Hainsworth


Someone has left a fridge
in the woods like a body.

It is almost offensively bright
in the pondy undergrowth,

but the bulb is slowly dimming.
Strange glacier, unmelting, bloated.

Door ajar, oozing like any other dead thing,
it is hard dust, trying to return to the earth.  

Moss clings to its angles, creeps over
bleached walls, loosens a magnet.

Phantom, monolith, temple.
A gift for archaeologists.

And that is the problem, dear fridge:
you will outlive us, and all of this.  


Blue Plaque for Cecilia Payne


An interesting subject or theme can lead to lazy writing: the ‘found object’ of a good story tempting the poet into merely re-telling it in chopped prose. Blue Plaque for Cecilia Payne is about the eponymous astrophysicist but it is also about how the achievements of women have historically been eclipsed by men. Fascinating as the subject undoubtedly is, I have picked this poem for the writing: a poem is made of words after all and it is the way this poet's words flow that caught my attention and made me want to re-read the poem rather than just Google Cecilia Payne and forget what drew my attention to her.


The poet first sees the plaque ‘at dusk, facing the moon.’ Once I realised who the poem was about (Payne’s discovery was that the sun and stars were mainly made from hydrogen and helium) I returned to this opening line and thought of the moon (man) eclipsing the plaque (Payne). One definition of eclipse is ‘a falling into obscurity:’ both plaque and poem serve to pull Payne from obscurity by identifying and preserving her achievement.


Language and subject are intertwined so they feel woven together in this well-crafted poem. As on the plaque where ‘the white letters cut like patterns in ice,’ the words are neatly shaped into four line stanzas. I was particularly impressed by the last stanza and the clever use of the sun itself as both a spotlight on Payne’s achievement and as a metaphor for something blinding us to her name; again, this made me think of an eclipse.


The poem shows us how the reputation of a woman can be buried and forgotten through images rather than merely telling us or preaching about the injustice of it. Subtlety, as well as attention to rhythm and sound, distinguishes Blue Plaque for Cecilia Payne as poetry rather than a replication of a prose statement copied and pasted from Wikipedia. Throughout the language is plain, though it lifts beautifully at the end in a lovely combination of light and colour as Payne’s name is both illuminated and erased, ‘by turns; by turns again.’




Lots of poems fail in being obvious in what they say or in how they say it, and earnest heart-on-sleeve poems always outnumber humorous tongue-in-cheek ones. Voyeurs delights with its elements of surprise and cheeky humour. Light verse needn’t be lightweight, however, and there is feeling here too, under the surface humour, as the poem touches on ageing and loneliness and the long-gone one-shot at youth. A less sophisticated writer could make a mess of this material but this poet carries it off well.





A big theme like climate change can encourage poets to write BIG poems. The poet of Requiem focuses on a single object, a fridge, and uses that as a metaphor for human greed and irresponsibility. The poem begins with a fridge left ‘in the woods like a body.’ Later the poet imagines what future people will think of this object from the past, this ‘gift for archaeologists,’ but will there be anyone around to witness and study it? Unlike the ‘bloated’ symbol of our greed, the poem is spare with compressed lines full of sharp arresting images: ‘Strange glacier, unmelting;’ ‘hard dust.’

Ross Wilson is an autodidact from a former mining village in West Fife. His first full collection, Line Drawing, was shortlisted for the Saltire Poetry Book of the Year in 2019. A pamphlet, Letters to Rosie, published in 2020, has been nominated for the Callum MacDonald Award in 2021. He has also published short stories and essays and was credited as a writer and actor in The Happy Lands, a feature film about the effects of the 1926 General Strike on a mining community in Fife. He works full-time as an Auxiliary Nurse in Glasgow.