Winning Poems of the “Ways to be Wilder” Poetry Competition: Summer Photograph by Amy Wolstenholme

This is the first in a series of pages publishing the winning and highly commended poems in our “ways to be wilder” poetry competition.

We’re also publishing our competition Judge, Jen Hadfield’s comments for each poem.


Summer Photograph

Amy Wolstenholme (18)


Bluebells bloom from the refuse heap,

Plait a crown for broken pots and leaves.

Grass blades weave: in-out. Beetles dart – come in

come out! – through the dandelion gridlock.

Beating hearts; butterfly eggs on nettle beds.

Moth wings. Shining things. Fireflies breed in

luminous excess behind the potting shed.

Night dark, quick start, bats flash behind the cars.

Worms writhe. Swallows dive. Sing out

there is beauty in this, in this–


Teenagers sprawl in gold dew fields.

Quick hearts, quick hands. Did they see us?

Let’s stand. Let’s run. Where the sky swoops

down to kiss the trees and the birds flash up to

court the breeze. Soft mouth. Hard lungs.

Cigarette ash on street side tongues.

Cars honk. Traffic rush. Short, short skirts –

Do you see me now? – to make you blush.

Slip and slide through city lights and lipstick

stain the towels. Nightclub prowl. We are

wild now. Watch us run. Sing out

there is beauty in this, in this–


Casanova air. Thunderstorm stare. Come on.

Sit down in the park in lamp-lit dark. Hold my hand.

Listen to the band. Music like forever, love.

Where the stars spawn in the pond. Children drown.

Dive down, yes, deeper. Wear the river

as your summer dress. Press the damp earth

between your palms and breathe. Fingernails bite.

Hold tight. Burning heat under the skin, between

the leaves. Forest fires take up the trees. Ash flies.

Time lies, children run. Learn how it is to inhale

the sun. Take it in, take it in. Burn. Sing out

there is beauty in this, in this–


Glass shards shine out on the beach.

Human jewels. Sprawl, sand in your eyelashes,

Grit in your mouth. Spit it out. Watch,

watch the way the sky consumes the skin.

The sea calls out – come on, come in! – across

the beach towel scape. Seagulls cry. Sunglasses spy.

Creep away through the churchyard,

Name after name, same time, same place.

Same old heartbreak. Sit down on a wall.

Brick dust. Sharp cuts. Ants below, birds above.

Egg shell sky, fractured blue, light in your hair.

Stop. Just there. Turn, smile, lean back.


camera flash


Sing out there is beauty in this, in this.

But not forever. Not for long.

Stick it into the album, that same old song:

Summer is gone.

Is gone.




Summer Photograph (18)

This poem’s a wonderfully urgent rhapsody to fleeting summer. To speak it aloud your reader needs to breathe fast, deep and often; off-setting rhymes so they don’t fall at the ends of lines was canny too. You use these tools cleverly to deny your reader some of the breathing space they might expect, driving on the poem’s summer. The camera flash is like a solstice: a teetering pause before the days begin to shorten and summer outruns itself. I love that the wildnesses you hymn here are human, urban and natural … too often these are segregated in life and poetry.

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