Farpais Grian-stad an Fhoghair 2022
Autumnal Equinox Competition 2022
In 2023, in response to the ongoing Covid situation, we moved our annual competition forward, welcoming entries from members nationally and internationally, through the Autumn. The results were shared via social media on 30th November, in celebration of St Andrew's Day. We are thrilled to share them here, with members, on our website.
Outside Mod One
Open: Short Story
Don J. Taylor
Helen of Troy
Open: Flash Fiction
The Funeral of Mags Cook
Marcas Mac an Tuairneir
A Letter to Glasgow
A Pillar of the Street
Thi Haily Isle
The Funeral of Mags Cook
Buannaiche / Winner
Toll an Lochain
Ri Shàr-mholadh / Highly Commended
Ri Mholadh / Commended
Farpais Grian-stad an Fhoghair 2023
Autumnal Equinox Competition 2023
The judges thoroughly enjoyed reading your work. Read through their commednations and recommendations, below.
Judged by Beth McDonough, Federation Makar
What were the common themes and threads running through this year's entries? I read a light-filled linguistic richness coming from a distant harem, all the way across to a darkly domestic bath time. There were some painfully sad poems concerning ageing loved ones living in care homes, but I also read of our waters, the moon and the pattern of seasons. Poems came in both stanzaic and freer forms, some rhymed and as many did not; there were taut shapes on the page and there were poems almost uninterrupted by white space. I came across a couple of sonnets and the delight of a Luc Bat in response to a Shakespearean play. That very nearly made my shortlist! In general, however I read very few examples of closed or open poetic forms. That's not a criticism or a wish, just an observation.
I witnessed both buoyant humour and deep sorrow. Understandably. Ukraine's terrible year was conveyed in some finely-tuned poetry. The responses to environmental catastrophe were very present, for clear reasons, but interestingly there were few entries which addressed our country's own current political situation. Once again, this is simply an informal review of the subjects which seemed to hold writers. Indeed, there may be a sense that a competition is not the best place to submit the poetry of protest. Certainly there are some excellent publication opportunities specialising in that area, where the response time is usefully rapid, and that may well be a significant factor. One poem, which almost reached my final trio, delivered the very resonant ending: 'once this would have sparked us/to riot'. I couldn't agree more.
If I came away with some spirit of what did draw so many of these entries together, it was a sense that there was a real feeling of what it is to be part of Scotland. Almost all the entries were in some strange way identifiably Scottish. By way of balance, my shortlist included a haunting poem drawn from the literature of the Indian subcontinent, something from Norse waters and a sharply-written ekphrastic poem which considered the devastation of the Californian fires. Our environment, both urban and rural, was hugely significant. Some very biting work was written in Scots, which offered a superb linguistic mouthfeel, and gave an apt texture to the subjects studied. The land's history and artefacts loomed large, and there was a sharing of those personal family histories, which even when conveyed in English, were clearly, quintessentially Scottish. Then there were the lines voiced by an assertive roe deer, which really caught that creature's essence. I only wish I could also offer a place to some of the clever narratives I encountered...that border-crossing poem, the strange rural happenings and the poem which ended its glorious, rolling litany of acute observations with a most-unexpected God. Generally, I have a bit of an aversion to shape poems, I confess, and yet...one of my favourites hung, beautifully built on the page, and I was pleased to have my bias challenged. Hopefully, writers will recognise their work from these swift descriptions, and will know just how close they came to winning.
There were many poems which came with terrific imagery, and cracking lines. Sometimes I felt nagged by that old advice to poets; 'arrive late and leave early', and yes, particularly that suggested early departure. Some of these poems had done such good work already in taking me to a destination, to be let down by a slightly explanatory ending which wrapped up more than perhaps was needed. I'd urge these poets to look again. Your reader wants to work too. Trust your poem. There are some excellent poems amongst the entries which just need a little trimming. I really hope I'll meet many of them again in published form.
I'll move to my final three now, in reverse order.
There's something about those liminal spaces, which are anything but nature's most acceptable face. The poem immediately asks you to 'Crouch here'. It's a dense poem, bristling with 'urine-/drenched comings and goings' and the very nature of its almost (but not quite) over-packed language keeps the reader on high alert. That very beautiful wordplay, with sharpness like the line break on 'blackthorn-/fankled palings' and the elegance of 'Sleek through interstices' kept the poem tensed throughout its twelve lines. It really earned the breathing space of the stanza break after 'pounce'. Quite a closing thought too...that 'edgeland growing feral.' Yes, I think we all need to recognise that.
By contrast, my second-placed poem offers a reverie, and evokes places, images and painful stories which work stunningly. Though a line short of a sonnet, it has something of that form's feeling. Unlike the tensed drive of Siding, Inhale lives through the spaces offered in its tercets and its final, stand alone line, It's what John Glenday was describing when he suggested that 'silence gets all the best phrases'. What is unsaid here works in tandem with what is said, and it fits so well with the rhythm of the act of smoking. A real sensory and filmic poem. I'm a lifelong non-smoker, but this one could tempt me! I was glad that the poem was able to trust its reader with tantalising fragments, seemingly illuminated by the cigarette's burning tip, without the need to tell too much. 'I exhale, count down the end of the year, more.' Beautiful.
Outside Mod One
My first choice kept surfacing in the final dozen. An arresting title is always a gift to the reader faced with quite an avalanche of poems. Personally, I find titles difficult indeed, and for me they are often the poem's last piece I can fit in place. I think, in the mapping of this poem too, the poet was wise to hold the title's explanation to a footnote. An explanation too close to the title would have had quite a different effect here. It's true that to pull out some of the references in this poem, you'd really need some kind of knowledge of the territory. However, by italicising that first line, the poet asks the reader to read something more into those words. If the reader doesn't take the hint, that's unwise indeed. A first line punching well above its weight. The rest follows in deceptively simple words, and again, there's the naming of Jencks for those who aren't perhaps familiar with what the poet sees. A ten line poem where 'Everything is going to be alright/ is behind me' sets the physical scene and says so much of the unseen territory. Very different from every other poem submitted. Congratulations to a courageous and risk-taking winner.
My thanks go to all who entered. Yes, I'd love to be able to give out more prizes, and certainly, someone else would likely have come out with a different group of winners. Please take your poems back...look them in the eye, and send them out again. They have lives to lead!
My thanks too to the FWS committee who have organised this competition, and worked so hard to make it possible.
Open: Short Story
Judged by Moira McPartlin, Federation Scriever
It is always a honour to be asked to judge a short story competition and with that honour comes a great sense of responsibility. Even though judging can be subjective I try to use an objective process that is fair to all entrants and leads to the right decision. Having entered many competitions, I know the elation felt when you are placed in the top three and the disappointment of being unsuccessful especially if the merits of the winning entries are not obvious.
I received twenty-two short stories to judge with a wide range of subjects and style from historical, crime, contemporary to epistolary fiction. Thank you to all who entered.
To give each entry equal weight I read them through over a two-day period. At that time, I separated them into two piles – No and Maybe. As I mentioned in my video about short story writing, it is easy to disregard stories that are badly written and presented or do not follow the competition guidelines. Although if a story is exceptional, I may let it slip through.
I set the stories aside for a couple of days, noting any that came to mind when I was dodging about on day-to-day business. I then read the Maybe pile again and came up with a short list. Normally at this stage a clear winner comes to mind, but this year the decision was difficult. Many of the stories were well written and well-presented but they had one or two flaws that let them down. Maybe there were too many questions left unanswered or the structure became confusing. I eventually got my list down to three but even then, I found the decision difficult. I had to be really picky to arrive at my final decision.
All three are different and what makes them stand out is that they all have authentic voices and are well written.
Third Place is awarded to Helen of Troy (1489 words). This well written story feels effortless and yet for such a short piece the author has set an evocative scene and created lively, memorable characters. However, although the song lyrics quoted fit the story, they will need to be checked for copyright issues.
Second place is awarded to Insomnia (1468 words). The entry is written in the second person, which is not easy to pull off. The story at first seems innocuous but the tension builds, and the ending has a real punch, it made me gasp.
The winner is City Break (2000 words). This story has three different voices and although each voice is given its own format in the text, this probably isn’t needed because each voice is distinctive. The story begins by setting the scene – Lubeck 1991. Small factual details are used to create a strong sense of place. Because of the three voices, the reader soon gets a sense that something is amiss. There is great tension which builds throughout. On first reading I felt the ending a bit predictable, but on second and third reading I could see the clues drip fed throughout giving the reader more to think about once the story ends. Very clever. Well done.
Open: Flash Fiction
Judged by Electra Rhodes
This year's competition threw up an incredibly wide range of pieces with extraordinarily varied subject matter. It was a real pleasure to read everything from a movie treatment (very funny and deliciously cynical) to a piece in rhyming couplets (beautiful, funny, and tragic) and a piece that took me to Pluto and back (lovely imagery and thought-provoking).
As a judge, and even just as a flash reader and writer there are always things I hope for in a story that is at the brief end of short - illumination, inspiration and immersion in the world of the piece. Everything I read did this, but the three pieces that have been placed did this and more.
Of course, every reader is affected by different pieces in different ways, and, truth be told, on different days, different readers/judges might come up with different pieces at the top of the pile. I read all the work in one sitting, make notes as I go and then let my thoughts and feelings marinate for a while. There were quite a few in contention for the top spots, but these are the ones that stayed with me, for a variety of reasons.
So without further ado:
The Funeral of Mags Cook
Every story should earn its ending, and I love how this one lands. In a surprising turn up for the books,several stories featured death, bodies, and the ruminations of corpses, and this one was particularly effective in helping us get to know Mags, while vicariously entertaining us with the consequences of her parsimony after death.
I especially loved the use of language - dialect can be done so badly that it's just a distraction, or, as here, it can be done incredibly well. This was nigh on perfect and I was thrilled to read it aloud several times over so it could roll around my mouth. Smashing.
I didn't know I'd laugh out loud when reading for the competition, but my partner heard me laughing at this one from the other side of the house. Many of us will either know or know of a Mags Cook, and although there's much to smile at in this flash, there's also a tender poignancy and sadness too. There's a sort of kindness and affection threading the piece, as well as a certain ruefulness. I'm glad the narrator got a laugh out of the whole experience.
Overall, the piece works so well - effectively structured, consistent voice, recognisable and relatable characters, clearly plotted, and both a 'flash' in its illuminations and a solid arc of a story with a super opening line, great development, and a resounding and well-earned end. Lovely, lovely, lovely.
A Letter to Glasgow
There's some beautiful and evocative language here, so much so that it had me doing up my cardigan and glancing over my shoulder to see who might be coming along behind me. I could feel, hear, taste and smell the streets in my mind's eye, and the emotional layers of the piece lingered with me afterwards.
There's real grit and wistfulness shimmering in the shadows and streetlights of the piece and I'm particularly keen in what it points to off the page, the things it doesn't say, and how it still evokes them, and an emotional response as a consequence.
A flash, at its best, illuminates a moment, like the bulb of a camera going off, and this does exactly this, beautifully. Gorgeous work.
The Pillar Of The Street
This piece has a fabulously strong narrative voice that propels you through the story from start to finish. It would be hard not to admire the tenaciousness of the narrator and the way she manages to be so feisty despite her rather sad backstory. By the end I was rooting for her, 100%.
This was another piece that made me laugh aloud, with a strong cast of relatable and, for me, utterly recognisable characters, a clear arc and plot and a fabulous sense of comeuppanceand denouement at the end. I admit to really admiring writers who can echo the beginning in their conclusion and give it a twist, and this story really pulls that off.
The language absolutely evoked the setting and I really enjoyed how although the narrator played it for laughs we could also sense that this was ultimately a bit of redemption for her in her own eyes, or maybe even revenge. Either way, I was delighted by it, I'd been pulled into her world and wanted to see her triumph.
I know, as readers, we want to see different things, but I love a story that delivers on the promise it holds at the start, and this one does this all the way. Smashing work, an utter joy.
Judged by Ann MacKinnon
I had seventeen entries of which four were Flash Fiction. The Scots was from different regions of Scotland. It was a difficult choice as the standard was high and each entry had something to offer the reader.
The subjects varied from religion to nature and place. There was a rant on modern life as well as a very moving sea disaster.
I was looking for writing that used literary techniques, the senses and had a range and depth of Scots. All of these were used in the pieces and some of the poems had a very good sense of rhythm.
I read all the entries aloud several times and chose as my winning entries the ones that sounded right to my ear. As always, the final decision comes down to a personal preference and I would encourage all the entrants to put their work forward to Lallans Magazine email@example.com or Eemis Stane - submissions@eemisstane,com - as they are all worthy of being published.
Some of the poems I think would be good performance pieces too.
My choices are:
Winner: Thi Haily Isle
Highly Commended: Brochtisland
Commended: The Funeral of Mags Cook
Comments on these pieces.
The Haily Isle: Good use of poetic techniques gives a real sense of peace and contentment.
Brochtisland: Good use of alliteration and the senses. Good rhythm. A surprise at the end.
The Funeral of Mags Cook: An unusual subject told in straightforward modern Scots. Succinct with a bit of a surprise in it.
Gàidhlig / Gaelic
Air a bhreithneachadh le Marcas Mac an Tuairneir, Cathraiche a' Chaidreachais
B' e urram a bhith nam bhritheamh os cionn roinn na Gàidhlig son na dàrna uarach agus chòrd e rium glan an sgrìobhadh a leughadh. Sa chiad dol a-mach leum dà dhàn a-mach às a’ phoidhle gu grad a bha làn ìomhaigheachd àlainn is a thog ceistean air aois, òige is inbheachd, gam frèamadh ann an co-theagsaichean nàdair is na h-àrainneachd. ’S e sàr bhàrdachd a tha seo, agus Gàidhlig gun smàl innte.
Mar sin, tha mi toilichte Seonaidh Charity a chur anns a’ chiad àite le ‘Toll an Lochain’ – dàn cumhachdach a bha làn brìgh na Gàidhealtachd agus an dearbh rud a tha airidh air foillseachadh. Chuireadh fàilte roimhe an dàn eile ‘Am Briseadh’ a chur thugam airson foillseachadh ann an Northwords Now. Tha a chuid sgrìobhaidh airidh air tuilleadh leughaidh agus mi an dòchas nach bi ro fhada mus fhaic sinn co-chruinneachadh aige an clò. Meal do naidheachd, a Sheonaidh.
A thaobh an sgrìobhaidh eile, chanainn gun robh e a’ mhòr-chuid dheth làn comais-fhàis agus bu mhiann leam gach sgrìobhadair a chùm an cuid saothrach rinn a bhrosnachadh. Cha b’ urrainn dhomh seachnadh gur e mion-chànan a th’ ann an cànan na Gàidhlig, agus buaidh a’ chàis sin ri fhaicinn ann an càileachd a’ chànain, air a chumail romham, a thaobh gràmar is litreachaidh.
Mar sin, b’ e mo mholadh dà phìos eile a dheasachadh mus nochd iad sa phamflaid, agus ’s ann an cruth deasaichte a thèid an cumail romhaibh aig a’ cuirm, cuideachd.
A dh’aindeoin sin, bha ‘Mo Chridhe’, an dàn san dàrna àite, làn ìomhaigheachd àlainn nan ràithean. Nas fhaisge air cruthan traidiseanta, thug an dàn seo mi air chuairt tro sheallaidhean bòidheach. Bu lèir gun robh na h-àiteachan sònraichte don bhana-bhàrd, Victoria Hutton, is meala-naidheachd oirre.
Bha sèist anns an dàn a bha airidh air seinn, agus tha e math traidisean bàrdachd gaoil fhaicinn, air ath-nuadhachadh airson an linn sa bheil sinne beò. Ged a bha ìomhaigheachd san dàn a chaidh a thoirt gu dìreach bho òrain na Gàidhlig as aithne dhuinn uile, bha ìomhaighean eile a bha gu tur ùr, aig a’ bhana-bhàird fhèin. Mar sin, bha co-thàthadh àlainn ri leughadh ann.
Bu mhath, cuideachd, grad-fhicsean sa Ghàidhlig fhaicinn agus, gu dearbh, tha sgrìobhadh den gnè seo gann sa Ghàidhlig. B’ e taghadh inntinneach aig Donnchadh MacCàba, ann an ‘Turas Toirmisgte’, an tràth làthaireach eachdraidheil a chleachdadh, gus an sgeulachd a chur an cèill – rud a thug mi leis an sgrìobhadair, tron sgeulachd, mar a bha mi nam shuidhe ri taobh a’ phrìomh charactair, no fiù ’s ag èisteachd ri a chuid smuaintean. Bha àiteachan, ge-tà, far nach do shoirbhich seo buileach, is guidheam faiceall dha a thaobh gnathais-chainnt, feuch an cleachd e na h-abairtean iomchaidh, ma tha am pìos seo gu bhith a’ nochdadh an clò, ann an àiteachan eile. Ro dheireadh a’ phìos thug cleachdadh thràthan eile fuasgladh air a’ chùis, a bheireadh piseach air an sgrìobhadh air fad nan deigheadh an cleachdadh, sa chiad dol a-mach.
Sin ann no às, bha car inntinneach air an sgeul, a shuidhich dràibhear a’ bhus mar nàmhaid bhon toiseach ach a dh’fhàg ceistean an inntinn an leughadair a thaobh a’ phrìomh-charactair, mus tàinig am ficsean gu crìch. Chòrd sin rium, gu mòr. Meal do naidheachd a Dhonnchaidh, agus meala-naidheachd air gach duine a chuir sgrìobhadh thugainn am bliadhna.
Marcas Mac an Tuairneir
Judged by Marcas Mac an Tuairneir, Federation Chair
It was an honour to judge the Gaelic category of the Federation’s competition for a second time. In the first instance, two poems leapt out of the pile immediately, which were full of rich imagery and raised questions about age, youth and adulthood, framed in natural and environmental contexts. This was poetry of the highest quality, and the Gaelic was impeccable.
To that end, I am happy to see Seonaidh Charity in first place with ‘Toll an Lochain’ – a powerful poem full of the essence of the Highlands and the kind of writing which deserves publication. I would urge him to send me the other poem ‘Am Briseadh’ for publication in Northwords Now. His writing is deserving of a wide readership and I hope it won’t be too long before we see a collection from him in print. Congratulations, Seonaidh.
In terms of the other writing, I would say that most of it was full of potential, and I would encourage every writer who sent us work to keep doing what they’re doing. I couldn’t ignore the fact, though, that Gaelic is a minoritised language, and the impact of that was to be seen in what was sent to me, in terms of grammar and spelling.
Due to this, it was my recommendation to edit two further pieces, before they appear in the pamphlet and it is this form that they will be read at the event, as well.
This all being said, ‘Mo Chridhe’, the poem in second place, was rich in beautiful, seasonal imagery. Closer to traditional forms, this poem took me on a journey through some beautiful vistas. It was clear that these locations meant a great deal to the poet, Victoria Hutton, and congratulations to her.
The poem, or rather the song-poem, had a refrain, and it’s great to see the Gaelic love poem tradition, renewed for the contemporary era. Whilst some of the imagery of the poem was lifted from the Gaelic songs we know so well, other images were completely new and refreshing, and of the poet’s own making. In that was there was a beautiful cohesion to be read, there.
I was great to see flash fiction in Gaelic too, and indeed, writing in this genre is scarce in Gaelic. It was an interesting choice from Donnchadh MacCàba in using historic presents for ‘Turas Toirmisgte’ in order to tell his story – something that took me along with the writer, through the story, as if I was sitting beside the protagonist, or even listening to his thoughts. There were places, though, where this wasn’t completely successful, and I’d advise rethinking some of the idiom used to make sure that it suits the piece if it is to be published elsewhere. By the end of the piece, the use of other tenses certainly opened it up, and this would have improved it if they had been used from the outset.
That notwithstanding, the tale had a tasty twist, having set the driver as the antagonist from the start, going on to leave questions regarding the protagonist, towards the end. This aspect, I enjoyed. Congratulations, Donnchadh and congratulations to all who entered this year.
Marcas Mac an Tuairneir
The Brian Whittingham Memorial Prize
Judged by Ann MacKinnon, Beth McDonough and Marcas Mac an Tuairneir
This year we were honoured to receive a sizeable donation from the Whittingham family, which represented a portion of that raised in memory of of Brian Whittingham, one of our former Makars. We are grateful to Cathie and the family for allowing us to remember and celebrate Brian in this special way, which will, for seven years, mean we are able to bestow an additional honour on a poet of remarkable talent, as part of our annual competition.
The Brian Whittingham Memorial Prize is awarded to a poet who has been successful in their linguistic category within the competition. A shortlist of three poems is chosen between the judges of each category (Open: Poetry, Scots and Gaelic) and the judges put forward one poem each.
For the inaugural prize, the shortlist was as follows:
Open: Poetry - Outside Mod One
Scots - Thi Haily Isle
Gaelic - Toll an Lochain
The judges then deliberated separately, selecting a potential winner. To do so, each judge awarded three, two and one point to the shortlisted poems in order of preference. This allowed us to discern a winner, from a very competitive field. The judges then met again to discuss the outcome select a winner, based on these results.
To this end, it is our privilege to award the inaugural Brian Whittingham Memorial Prize to Seonaidh Charity, with his poem 'Toll an Lochain'.
Meal do naidheachd, a Sheonaidh.
Marcas Mac an Tuairneir