Prole Laureate poetry competition, 2024
The Prole Laureate Poetry Competition for 2024 is now closed to entries..
Winner receives £200 and publication in Prole, issue 35.
2 x runners up receive £50 each and publication in issue 35.
All entries will be anonymised and sent to our judge, Maurice Devitt. For information about Maurice, see below.
We will accept entries until December 20th, 2023.
The winner and runners up will be announced in issue 35 of Prole and on our website.
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 open.
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)
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 All work must be the original work of the writer and be unpublished.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
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Make a cheque (GBP only, please) payable to P Robertson for the correct amount and mail along with entry to:
27 Thornton Ave
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.
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.
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
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.
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.