MAG Poetry Competition 2011 – Shortlisted Poem


by John Wood

“My mother taught me that every night a procession of
junks carrying lanterns moves silently across the sky, and the water sprinkled
from their paddles falls to the earth in the form of dew.”
       Allen Upward

Stars are not lamp-lit junks. Nor is the dew
the million splashes from their careless oars.
No Captain beards the dark or, if he does,
he’ll not be troubled by a watcher who
sees only night’s wild ocean – as I do.
I know there are no good and sacred laws
or life beyond death.  I know these things because
my father told me everything he knew
and taught me to believe in nature’s truths
and by his laws proved everything he said;
that one bright star is no more than it seems.
I kiss your brow goodnight, and soon must choose,
my sleeping cub, how I’m to fill your head;
what weight of doubts, what cupboard-full of dreams.

Added: 05.04.2011

Judges' comments on this poem


This poem expresses one of the major decisions that every parent faces and furnishes the dilemma poignantly.


Insightful and effortlessly beautiful


I loved the rhythm of this poem and the dreamy thoughts expressed so well.


Like the first part about the stars, junks, dew, etc, and the last two lines. Not so sure about the middle: poem loses its sharpness there.


beautiful depiction of a choice we should all make.


I thought the sonnet form was good and the rhymes werent too forced. Ending was powerful but didnt like the use of the word cub sentimental.


Brilliant poem - clever use of slant rhyme and beautiful imagery.


Lovely use of language and description to riff on fairy tales, nursery rhymes, dreams.


That's beautiful. Romance brought to rationalism. And a sonnet to boot. A fantastic piece of work.


Nice work... I would rather keep believing they were lanterns though...


Lovely well crafted poem with a wonderful final line. Explores the difficulties of passing on a legacy of the heart/mind with great delicacy


well crafted; the dilemma is deeply felt.


Beautiful central metaphor of the junks/stars, highly visual. Loved the unusual sonnet structure, the surprising rhyme pattern, the ending.


Loved the way that authoritative voice began to reveal its uncertainties in the final lines.


Got to admire a thoughtful and successful sonnet! I love the contrast between the 'facts' and the dreams.


a very well constructed sonnet, and not just technically - the reader is led through the thought process in a warm, well timed manner.


I voted for this in an earlier round, but having read it again, find it more beautiful and profound than on the first readings. Lovely!