People Need Nature/Young Poets Network competition highly commended poems – Butterflies by Alannah Taylor

Continuing our  series of pages publishing the winning and highly commended poems in the People Need Nature/Young Poets Network “Ways to be Wilder” poetry competition, hosted by the Young Poets Network. We are also publishing judge Jen Hadfield’s notes on the poems.



Alannah Taylor (19)

Until that grand unravelling, along those

puckering, pocketed contours, it is all

layers of blood and spleen crusted up on one another

in crystalline collusions of chaste

diffidence, like

the sore kinks around the hips and shoulders of a skeleton

which has been forced to grow

coiled up inside a cupboard.

But when you dredge apart those skin-thin wings,

We’ll see them blustering, spattered with new things.


Comments from Jen Hadfield:

As a meditation on what becomes of us – physically, emotionally – when we’re compressed, this poem rings very true. You handle its music very well: the ornamentation of clustered assonances in the trisyllables words in the first half yield to a smoother music – your reader feels it as a physical easing – as the poem emerges, and the nymph unfolds from the cupboard/chrysalis. This unfolding of sense and sound might be embodied in the poem’s form, too – which feels to me like it may still be evolving. I could imagine this poem taking a slightly more regular shape, perhaps with the last couplet escaping the rest.