2022 Poetry d’Amour Love Poetry Contest Winners

With Words Alone …    Rose van Son

First Prize

David Terelinck             Clingstone

Second Prize

Denise O’Hagan            The Measure of Absence

Highly Commended

Rose Lucas                    In the Field Where it Happens

SoulReserve                  The Sacred Place of Lotus


Fiona Lynch                   A Perfect Circle

Ian Reid                         Coming to Our Senses

Youth Incentive Award

Bruce Ru                       Ode to Poetry


With Words Alone …

Henry David Thoreau writes, there is no remedy for love but to love more.  But how do we love more or even less? Who sets the benchmark for love, and what of love itself? How to express in words the ache, the feeling, the loss, the passion, the impossibility, the agony, the silence of love?

When we love we are fearless in our passion and creative pursuits, in our relationship with the affairs of the heart: our love of family, nature, art. We imagine life could not be otherwise. When we love, all is perfect; when we fall out of love we wonder how could it have happened?  

Some years ago I was invited to speak the poetry of love at a Valentine’s Day lunch for Senior Citizens.  I was keen to please— to make the day memorable for all of us.  I was a poet in love with the written word, passionate about how words come together, their sounds, nuances, cadence: what could go wrong?   On the way, I called in to a Party Hire store, and purchased three large, heart-shaped balloons— red, of course, for nothing spells love like red. The poems were tucked firmly in a folder under my arm. I began to read, A Red, Red, Rose, and was excited when a woman in the audience joined me in reciting Robert Burns’ famous poem. Soon, we were crying, so touched we were.    

Love poetry can turn on the emotions. Just listen to Eva Cassidy online, singing Burns’ beautiful words for an emotional experience, or Andy M. Stewart, his Scottish accent adding authenticity to another presentation. Love hearts adorned the table and Burns’ poem came to life as Stewart sang: ‘Play it again!’ the audience shouted, while stories of their own love trysts emerged.

Poets have always written of the joy and unpredictability of love. When love speaks; the heart answers.  If we love, we grieve, Nick Cave writes in his poem, Letter to Cynthia:

Dear Cynthia, // It seems to me, that if we love, we grieve / That’s the deal / That’s the pact / Grief and love are forever intertwined / Grief is the terrible reminder of the depths of our love’ /

Seamus Heaney’s beautiful Sonnet 3, in memory of his mother, from Clearances, begins,  

When all the others were away at Mass / I was all hers as we peeled potatoes… /

and ends, Never closer the whole of our lives. 

How a simple act of peeling potatoes can transport us, expose love and pain. We love by association: moments held, remembered.  

Love is romantic, sensual, secretive, seductive and spiritual. The poems in this anthology embrace all these emotions and more. They reflect and reveal. With words alone, poets must canvas a picture for their kind of love: the known and the unrequited. They speak with many voices, forms, styles.  

It has been a privilege and a pleasure to read these personal stories, to be let into the sacred spaces of poets, their stories of the heart.    

There were 301 entries in this year’s Awards. Judging and selecting places for an anthology such as this takes reading and rereading, putting aside, coming back, examining sentiment, depth and perspective, for poets write not only for themselves but for an audience, in the hope their audience will grasp the passion and meaning underlying their words.

Congratulations to all winners and entrants who put pen to paper for the 2022 Poetry d’Amour Awards. May you always be inspired to write the affairs of the heart for surely they are a record of our most treasured moments?     

                                                                                    Rose van Son, Judge, Poetry d’Amour 2022

And the winners:    

First: Clingstone         How softly you hold summer / in your palms, slowly adding each / golden globe to the fruit bowl. /

This poem took hold of me from the first reading: music, art and love, all here…  

‘That was the summer I discovered / the intimate geography / painted by Renoir and Reuben.’

Second: The measure of absence

 ‘we paddled the shallows shoulder to shoulder, / searched for starfish, necklaced seaweed.  The next day you were gone’. Love and loss, the sadness, remembered in every line. So visual.    

The sacred place of lotus (Highly Commended)

The poet takes us to the inside of being. ‘Still, in each life / you birth unstained. / Arched, you lift / your soapstone softness / from glossy mirror water / to raw porcelain sky. Here we ‘tremble’ and reverberate with love; Alliteration forms the rhythm of this poem; adds music to enjoyment.  

In the field where it happens (Highly Commended)

‘You work me / as though I were a stubbled field …/ I am all harvest   all fallow…/’

The reader is taken, metaphorically, elsewhere, into another world, ‘of voice and no-voice, a silence as rich as layers of leaf litter / / sifting…’ looking to find.

Coming to our senses (Commended)  

‘We never wanted to see our life together / fixed and propped in a shiny frame / or snapped into a stiff-leaf album / let alone displayed on Instagram…’  ‘Taste isn’t only about tongues…’ the poet writes. / A telling poem, yet it keeps so much hidden, so we can discover the rest for ourselves.

A perfect circle (Commended)

’In the middle of ten point turns & invisible / patterns, she sings.  Window wide, I listen, ears in my chest.’… ‘but I remember / thinking lucky I wasn’t having tea & oranges with Suzanne…’

A fun poem: full of love, with so much wonderful detail.

Youth Incentive Award Winner:

Ode to Poetry; full of reference and sound; it speaks so much of the poet’s love of poetry.  

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First Prize


How softly you hold summer
in your palms, slowly adding each
golden globe to the fruit bowl.
Sunlight sluices the screen door,
alchemies the dust motes, insinuates
itself up your leg to gild your thigh.
You hold one out to me. The perfume
ripens a clingstone memory. 
And I recall a distant season,
a different girl, just about the time my face
was starting to know the daily kiss
from a razor. There she stood,
on that Georgia backroad,
beside a swayback fruit stand
with a hand-lettered sign:
fresh peeches 4 sale.
Her faded sundress clung to perfect
dangerous curves. 
From the portable on the shelf,
beside baskets of eggs, pails of pecans,
bottled preserves, Ella crooned
I’m wild again, beguiled again,
a simpering, whimpering child again …
As she slowly swayed her hips
she picked up a sun-warmed peach,
bit into plump flesh, held it out as juice

dribbled down her chin, dripped
from hand to dusty sandaled feet. 
That was the summer I discovered
the intimate geography
painted by Renoir and Reuben.
The summer I found women
could be sweet      satisfying
and without them ever knowing it 
they could leave a lasting bruise.

David Terelinck

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Second Prize

The Measure of Absence
(or, On the Flight of a Teenage Mother)
for C.

If I could measure absence in a spoon,
one for every week without you,
            I’d have bowlfuls already. Instead,

I carry that night forever: you curled up
in the blue armchairstill, silent, smoking,
and me peering down at you

from the shadowed upstairs landing. The sun
had burned a crescent on your shoulder;
we’d been at the beach all afternoon

and you were slapdash with sunscreen, and
other things. But it didn’t matter, because
you joked and laughed, held hands as

we paddled the shallows shoulder to shoulder,
searched for starfish, necklaced seaweed.
The next day you were gone.

Write it up, they tell me half a lifetime later.
If she’s untraceable, get it out of your system;
you work with words, don’t you?

I never ask on what literary device I could
ever hope to hang my longing, or on
what conceit my grief;

or point out that any poem I could write
about you would risk becoming, at best,
an act of elegant deceit—

Instead, I refuge myself in action: lift down
your navy coat periodically, stroke files
of dust from its creases, and

hang it up again shoulder to shoulder
with my own, taking in each small gesture
the measure of your absence.

Denise O’Hagan

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Highly Commended

In the Field Where It Happens          

You work me
as though
I were a stubbled field

where what once grew    rangy and green
is done with    like last summer and
yet it isn’t   it’s still reaching out desiccated roots

into the crumble of exhausted soil
the persistent gift of your love    turns me
over   I am all harvest   all fallow

you stir me     quiet miracle   into afternoon light
this stretching into the sun
the unmarked spaces of what might yet grow      say

an empty screen
a cursor’s patient pulse
it casts the spell   and calls

calls me out
an expanse of slide and
change   this tumble of

voice and no-voice
a silence as rich as layers of leaf litter
sifting    just at the edge of vision

field’s edge
seasons’ lip
heart’s rich territory

Rose Lucas

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Highly Commended

The Sacred Place of Lotus

From the murky depths
of this pond, you emerge
nimble-limbed, green stalked,
like half-open eye
of the moon.

The water entranced
by your presence, glitters,
by your pearlescent reflection,
ripples in crescents
and circles around you,
yearns to touch.

Still, in each life
you birth unstained.
Arched, you lift
your soapstone softness
from glossy mirror water
to raw porcelain sky.

Trembling, you press,
leave impermanent imprints
that fade. Carve time
in reverberating mandalas
of unending love,
as we meet;

Life after life,
at the sacred place
of lotus,
your petals like pearls
from the necklace made
and remade
for your form.

In this life, you glimmer
ephemeral, edify love,
scented with divine secrets
that open and spill
with your unfurling.


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A Perfect Circle

Not big enough to get a run up or turn a full circle in our concrete
yard, my girl pedals her trike in funny little arcs, making the most

of the area she has. Plaits unravel, though not from a cracking
pace, just four-year-old scruff. She leans over as she corners,

best effort momentum. In the middle of ten point turns & invisible
patterns, she sings. Window wide, I listen, ears in my chest.

After a while, she is accompanied—a backbeat—my man persuading
something in the shed with a hammer. The tricycle sprite must have

sprinkled him—clanging gives way to that strange half-croon, half-whistle
championed by men of a certain vintage, Sinatra & Roger Whittaker

duelling for top billing in his head. I hear my beautifully tuneless lug—
ol’ blue eyes & Roger would have bonded over whisky & telling

my fella to shut up. I can’t recall, Saturday or Sunday, but I remember
thinking lucky I wasn’t having tea & oranges with Suzanne, might

have missed my backyard duo. Thirty years since that day I was making
the most of the area I had, their arms around me, the shape they gave.

Fiona Lynch

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Coming to Our Senses

Before anything else happened, before
you had more than a hazy sense of how I looked 
and long before we laid fingers on one other
or intimately knew our tastes and scents, 
it was what we heard that hooked our attention—
not so much the words we spoke as their tone. 
Some quality in your voice held me taut
and you told me later the timbre of mine
in that first tentative long-distance call
beckoned you at once. Perhaps I just sound 
better on the phone, so should use it more
to converse with you, even when by your side?  

We never wanted to see our life together
fixed and propped in a shiny frame
or snapped into a stiff-leaf album
let alone displayed on Instagram
and these days we’re even less keen 
to have a lens pointed at us. When we come 
across casual images of our former selves
they summon a kind of compassion because
we now know things that those more innocent
eyes and pliant bodies didn’t yet know. 

Taste isn’t only about tongues. “How sweet
are thy words unto my taste!” the psalmist said,
“Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth.” He knew
that when we come to the tang of sensory pleasure
mouth-feel has more allure than mere sweetness.
So we’ve preferred to go for piquant flavours, 
savouring remedies to anything that cloys,
relishing whatever smacks of the wry and dry.

To our mutual relief we soon discovered
I didn’t fancy an insistent perfume
any more than you liked the whiff of aftershave.
Simple flesh, subtly redolent of everything
we give each other, has an ample fragrance.   

Waking at night, we turn inquiringly
with sightless hands reaching each for each, 
skin-checking that we’re still here after all 
this time.

Ian Reid

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Youth Incentive Award

Ode to Poetry

O Poetry! My fair lady!
You dress yourself in a million ways.
Epics, haikus, sonnets, and nonets,
You silence the nightingale with every phrase.

O Poetry! My dainty lady!
You dance to your own feet and form.
With the changing metre, tempo and beat,
You took me on a journey full of rhythm.
We sailed across the ancient Aegean Sea,
 And led by Homer to the epic Trojan wall.
Eagle, armour, ships, fire and blood,
You showed me heroes rise and fall.

We paused at Elizabethan Stratford-Upon-Avon.
Acquainted I with Shakespeare in the town.
 Each time the bard did lift his magic quill,
You made a billion pearls of love pour down.
We drop by the Ducal Palace of Mantua.
You amazed me with Monteverdi’s boundless power.
When Orfeo sang with his blessed lyre,
Callous Pluto relented before an hour.

Curiously, I peeked into a gothic chamber,
Where in the dark sat Edgar Allan Poe.
with the Raven echoing “Nevermore”,
You made me shiver with woe.

Escaping, we flew over the vales and hills
Where Wordsworth wandered lonely as a cloud.
You cheered me up with the golden daffodils,
And filled my heart with the bliss of solitude.

We entered the Harlem Renaissance.
And condemned injustice without violent fights,
Along with the darker brother, Langston Hughes,
You fuelled my dreams of equal human rights.

O Poetry! My brave lady!
How you untangle the wire I call life.
You’ll always guide me through the secret lands
Of good and evil, of love and strife.

O Poetry! My wise lady!
You make lifeless words spring alive!
From an ode to an elegy,
You shall forever thrive!

Bruce Ru

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