The judges, Andy Croft of Smokestack Books and Mary Sayer from Unite, have picked the following five winners for 2021:
Have Mercy on the Multi-Drop Man by Eamonn Harvey
They Want All Our Teeth to be Theirs by Martin Hayes
The Apple Tree by Alan Sleater
Spray Carnations by Steven Taylor
So Long Mariana by Alan Weadick
Here are the judges' comments on this year's entries:
It is hard to write about the injustices of contemporary society without slipping into easy denunciations, second-hand phrases and borrowed anger. The best political poetry should also be painful to read, interrogating itself and challenging what the reader thinks they know or believe to be true.
The entries to this year’s Bread and Roses competition certainly share a sense of impatient rage and revulsion at the way the world works; but they are also distinguished by intellectual ambition, literary technique and political resilience. And they say what needs to be said about the subjects that matter most – inequality, work, unemployment, solidarity, struggle, homelessness, racism, illegal wars, environmental disaster.
- Andy Croft, Smokestack Books
At a time when the working class struggles to make itself heard in the arts, which are in danger of becoming the preserve of the entitled - we need to raise our voices louder than ever.
When some of us feel as if a protective layer of our emotions has been torn off by the powers that be - it has been particularly heartening to read these resonant outpourings from our comrades. A whole range of emotions live in these beautiful and brave poems: passion, reflection, tender nostalgia and hope – through to urgent and justifiable outrage. Always inspiring and often very funny and comforting. Just the title alone of one my favourite of these poems does it for me: 'Have Mercy on the Multi-drop Man'. Brilliant!
- Mary Sayer, Unite
Here is one of the winning poems, the others will be published online shortly:
So Long, Mariana
(A Farewell to Employee No. 322952 from Employee No. 323647)
by Alan Weadick
Such a huge sigh, Mariana, containing, I hope,
only a fraction of what we'll both
still have left over after this out of office hours
work that flows from us in salt and water
as we cut a swath through the dust
of dead messages, contemplating beds
of sharpened pencils in the era of eyes
that never blink, trying not to sink
into the special pit reserved
for rapidly cooling corporate benevolence.
Which, I am given to understand,
likes us fine and makes us the subject
of many an after –dinner speaker,
the same Babel all over, Mariana,
out in the nursing homes of the privately
wicked, those who claim to be on your side
while on their way to the revolving door
to snuggle up with their lump sums.
So sigh some more, Mariana,
as often and deeply as it takes
to make your first song
(I can't tell you how many; I'm still sighing
my way through a dozen wet cardboard walls).
But those who have ears will hear it
true and unmistakable as the hand writing
in light that must have made you up
(there is no other explanation for you, Mariana)
with just such a mission in mind
after each Brazilian night to come
with its far from neutral face
has done its worst to erase
whatever it is about you, Mariana,
and what you've left behind
that can't be binned or sold.