Poetry at the Rose and Crown

On Monday evening we held the award ceremony of our first Waltham Forest (Poets Corner) Poetry Competition. The theme was “A Bright Future”. A number of the prize winners and highly and commended poets attended – two of the three winners of the main prizes were overseas (USA and Novia Scotia). There were four catagories: Overall winners with prizes of £300, £200 and £100: Local Poet and Young Poet each with prizes of £50, £30, £20 and a special award for the Top Local Young Poet £10. Stow Bros sponsored the Local Poet prizes.

The competition was a success with over 400 poems from well over 200 poets from across the Globe. We intend to run it again next year as part of Waltham Forest’s “Borough of Culture 2019” programme . If you have any idea for its format or competition theme we’d love to hear from you. Do keep an eye out for announcements, ideas etc on this site.




Come and join us at the Waltham Forest Poetry Competition Prize-Giving ceremony

On Monday 29 October, from 7.30pm, join Meryl Pugh and the winners of the inaugural Waltham Forest Poetry Competition.

There will be readings from Meryl as well as winners and commended poets, plus an open mic on the competition theme of ‘A Bright Future’ – or just bring your poems. If you would like to read, sign up on the night.

Prize-winning readers expected to include:

Main competition prize-winners Jane Wilkinson and Jenny Mitchell
Local prize-winners Tim Scott, Angelena Demaria and Sarala Estruch
Young poet prize-winner Kate Lucas

Free event. No need to book.

Ye Olde Rose and Crown Theatre Pub
53 Hoe Street
E17 4SA

Keep those pencils sharpened!

That’s it! It’s over! Finis!…except it’s not. Our first poetry competition closed on 7th of September and that’s when the hard work began.

I had no idea how the competition would go. Would we be embarrassed with a trickle of entries. I’d heard of competition deadlines being extended because so few entries had been received. Would our judge Meryl Pugh be twiddling her thumbs?

I needn’t have worried. We had 437 poems from 223 poets in the adult section of which 70 + were local poets and 84 poems from young poets.

Meryl is attacking her task with relish! Already she’s tweeted that some of the young poets would give the old timers a run for their money. Also, she’s finding it harder to eliminate any poem.

This is great news. The competition has lived up to its theme “A Bright Future”…for poetry’s health. Thank you one and all.

And it’s not over. There’s the thrill of letting the winners etc know the results of the National, Local and Young Poet competitions. There’s the prize giving and reading of the winning poems on Monday 29th October at 7:30pm at the Old Rose and Crown, Hoe Street, Walthamstow. And there’s next year’s competition. We’ll just have to have another one!

Also, although the competition’s over we thought we’d keep people’s choice of poems going. So if you have a favourite why not let us know either by e-mail or twitter @BCoidan or @ForestPoets and add a piece about yourself and why you chose that poem.


I think this is so clever. When we had our “Poets for Sale” street event in 2014, people stopped, read the poem and walked on with smiles on their faces.


Competition Closes Midnight Friday 7th September

Still I Rise

Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.


This poem is a fitting choice with which to sign off our poetry competition. It’s been chosen by a Mr David F of Tonbridge Wells. Little is known about this correspondent other than for many years he commuted to Whitehall to slave away over a hot quill pen keeping the ship of state on a steady course, successfully navigating the snagging economic rocks and shifting political sands that imperilled this great nation of ours. It is to be noted that since he ceased his endeavours it’s all gone to pot.


Lots of people don’t like Kipling. To them he’s all that was wrong with British Imperialism. Orwell didn’t have much time for him but recognise his genius. T. S. Eliot held him in high regard. Walt Disney has made a mint from his writings and Malcolm McDowell’s career was launched in Lindsey Anderson’s “If”.

His son John was killed in 1916 and partly in response to John’s death, Kipling joined Sir Fabian Ware’s Imperial War Graves Commission (now the Commonwealth War Graves Commission), the group responsible for the garden-like British war graves that can be found to this day dotted along the former Western Front and all the other locations around the world where troops of the British Empire lie buried.

His most significant contributions to the project were his selection of the biblical phrase, “Their Name Liveth For Evermore” (Ecclesiasticus 44.14, KJV), found on the Stones of Remembrance in larger war cemeteries, and his suggestion of the phrase “Known unto God” for the gravestones of unidentified servicemen. He also chose the inscription “The Glorious Dead” on the Cenotaph, Whitehall, London. Additionally, he wrote a two-volume history of the Irish Guards, his son’s regiment: it was published in 1923 and is considered to be one of the finest examples of regimental history.

In 2010, the International Astronomical Union approved that a crater on the planet Mercury would be named after Kipling—one of ten newly discovered impact craters observed by the MESSENGER spacecraft in 2008–9. In 2012, an extinct species of crocodile, Goniopholis kiplingi, was named in his honour, “in recognition for his enthusiasm for natural sciences”

Not bad for an old Imperialist.


Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream – and not make dreams
your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

The poem was chosen by Rob Molan who has escaped London’s poisoned air for the stimulating clarity of Edinburgh. Rob was, like me, once a Treasury official and then a senior civil servant in the Department of Works and Pensions. He managed to get himself moved from London to somewhere up North and subsequently finding solace in the windy streets of Scotland’s premier city. He travels to London occasionally. He is an avid Paul Simon fan.

Extract from “An Exequy” by Peter Porter

I asked a number of friends to suggest their favourite poems. I’m so glad I did because one friend chose this. This is what he said about “An Exequy” –

My nomination is a poem called “An Exequy” by Peter Porter. Why? Because it’s the most profound expression of personal grief and loss that I know. It was written in the wake of the suicide of Porter’s first wife, who killed herself as the poem puts it:
Some time between despair and dawn
and it dwells on the joys and mysteries of their marriage. It deliberately echoes a famous seventeenth century poem about a prematurely dead wife but remains completely modern, although the two lines I could never forget are I think timeless:-
No one can say why hearts will break
And marriages are all opaque.
I’ve included an extract only: it’s a delight to hear the complete poem read by Ian McEwan at Poems that Make Grown Men Cry

Extract from

T H E   E X E Q U Y

by Peter Porter

The words and faces proper to
My misery are private — you
Would never share our heart with those
Whose only talent’s to suppose,
Nor from your final childish bed
Raise a remote confessing head —
The channels of our lives are blocked,
The hand is stopped upon the clock,
No one can say why hearts will break
And marriages are all opaque:
A map of loss, some posted cards,
The living house reduced to shards,
The abstract hell of memory,
The pointlessness of poetry —
These are the instances which tell
Of something which I know full well,
I owe a death to you — one day
The time will come for me to pay
When your slim shape from photographs
Stands at my door and gently asks
If I have any work to do
Or will I come to bed with you.
O scala enigmata,
I’ll climb up to that attic where
The curtain of your life was drawn
Some time between despair and dawn —
I’ll never know with what halt steps
You mounted to this plain eclipse
But each stair now will station me
A black responsibility
And point me to that shut-down room,
‘This be your due appointed tomb.’

My friend Mike says this about himself.  “I am not sure what is wanted by way of self portraiture. I would like in this context to emphasise that I am the son of poor Irish immigrant parents, brought up in somewhat straitened circumstances on a council estate but gifted a love of poetry as a result of my grammar school education: if I am just characterised as an ex-Treasury Cambridge graduate then the usual stereotypical crap will supervene to obscure that reality.”