December's Poetry Contest Winner: A Sweetness Absent from the Ocean Air

Posted by Cybil on December 2, 2017




Every month, Goodreads and the ¡POETRY! group host a poetry contest. It's a great way to discover and support the work of emerging poets. Join the ¡POETRY! group where you can vote to select the winning poem each month from among the finalists. Aspiring poets can also submit a poem for consideration.

Congratulations to John, who is our December winner with this poem:

A Sweetness Absent from the Ocean Air

by John Beaton

The Weeping Window bleeds ceramic poppies
that blush St. Magnus’s cathedral wall
and each seems miniscule among them all—
the throng comprises nigh a million copies:
one bloom per British serviceman who died
in World War One, a massive flower bed
entitled Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red
displayed in London where it dignified
that War’s centenary. Now part has travelled
to Orkney, here to mark one century
since dreadnought fleets waged battle on the sea
near Jutland. Lifelines tangled and unravelled—
in two short days eight thousand men and more
succumbed as riven battleships went down.
With Princess Anne, the envoy of the Crown,
their relatives are welcomed at the door
of this, the Viking edifice erected
in memory of Magnus, who eschewed
bad blood in favour of the holy rood,
a man of peace, nine hundred years respected.


Some families take pause and stare, as if
they hope the flower avatar of their
lost sailor lad will wave. As they repair
into the church, the poppies stand up, stiff
like soldiers at attention on parade;
their stems are wire, their heads are crimson clay
and, grouped, they seem ethereal, a fey
honor guard shipshapedly displayed.
The British and the German brass bands march
along the harbor front then through the streets;
this day there are no triumphs or defeats—
they gain the church grounds through a common arch—
and then the pipe band, clad in kilts, assemble.
No instrument of war can so foment
bravado then bestow such dark lament:
Great Highland Bagpipes set the air atremble,
the Weeping Window work of art revives,
more vehemently, the ones who drowned and bled,
and now we see, in child-tall blooms of red,
a sad cascade of young, foreshortened lives.





Comments Showing 1-16 of 16 (16 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Kat (new)

Kat Really beautiful imagery and lovely flowing rhyme scheme.


message 2: by Breslin (new)

Breslin White Very poetic!


TheBohemianBookworm So happy to see your poem John! Fabulous job.


message 4: by Caroline (new)

Caroline Very moving John. Congratulations.


message 5: by Angela (new)

Angela Gascoigne Lovely peom. Very touching.


message 6: by Mothwing (new)

Mothwing Lovely connection to St Magnus at the end.


message 7: by John (last edited Dec 07, 2017 01:36PM) (new)

John Thanks for the comments, but this is a bit awkward--only half my poem has been included! The full version is as follows:

A Sweetness Absent from the Ocean Air

The Weeping Window bleeds ceramic poppies
that blush St. Magnus’s cathedral wall
and each seems miniscule among them all—
the throng comprises nigh a million copies:
one bloom per British serviceman who died
in World War One, a massive flower bed
entitled Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red
displayed in London where it dignified
that War’s centenary. Now part has travelled
to Orkney, here to mark one century
since dreadnought fleets waged battle on the sea
near Jutland. Lifelines tangled and unravelled—
in two short days eight thousand men and more
succumbed as riven battleships went down.
With Princess Anne, the envoy of the Crown,
their relatives are welcomed at the door
of this, the Viking edifice erected
in memory of Magnus, who eschewed
bad blood in favour of the holy rood,
a man of peace, nine hundred years respected.


Some families take pause and stare, as if
they hope the flower avatar of their
lost sailor lad will wave. As they repair
into the church, the poppies stand up, stiff
like soldiers at attention on parade;
their stems are wire, their heads are crimson clay
and, grouped, they seem ethereal, a fey
honor guard shipshapedly displayed.
The British and the German brass bands march
along the harbor front then through the streets;
this day there are no triumphs or defeats—
they gain the church grounds through a common arch—
and then the pipe band, clad in kilts, assemble.
No instrument of war can so foment
bravado then bestow such dark lament:
Great Highland Bagpipes set the air atremble,
the Weeping Window work of art revives,
more vehemently, the ones who drowned and bled,
and now we see, in child-tall blooms of red,
a sad cascade of young, foreshortened lives.

John Beaton (Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island)

PS It's now been corrected.

reply | flag *


message 8: by Kat (new)

Kat John wrote: "Thanks for the comments, but this is a bit awkward--only half my poem has been included! The full version is as follows:

A Sweetness Absent from the Ocean Air

The Weeping Window bleeds ceramic po..."


Thanks for sharing the rest with us! More beautiful imagery, this time with poignant personification. Hopefully it will be added to the original post so everyone can appreciate it.


message 9: by Caroline (new)

Caroline Wonderful John. The whole poem should have been included.


message 10: by John (last edited Dec 07, 2017 12:23AM) (new)

John Thanks, Kat, Caroline, and Sonder.

Here's a link to the scene: https://cdn.1418now.org.uk/uploads/20...


message 11: by Kat (new)

Kat John wrote: "Thanks, Kat, Caroline, and Sonder.

Here's a link to the scene: https://cdn.1418now.org.uk/uploads/20..."


You captured it perfectly - it's a very arresting image.


message 12: by Caroline (new)

Caroline John wrote: "Thanks, Kat, Caroline, and Sonder.

Here's a link to the scene: https://cdn.1418now.org.uk/uploads/20..."


Thanks John- stunning.


message 13: by BATMAN (new)

BATMAN John wrote: "Thanks, Kat, Caroline, and Sonder.

Here's a link to the scene: https://cdn.1418now.org.uk/uploads/20..."


Ugh, I have no words. Your poem was beautiful, sad, and, for some strange reason, uplifting at the same. The scene you wrote about is stunning. There's really nothing I can say.


message 14: by Kat (new)

Kat John wrote: "Thanks for the comments, but this is a bit awkward--only half my poem has been included! The full version is as follows:

A Sweetness Absent from the Ocean Air

The Weeping Window bleeds ceramic po..."


Glad it's been corrected! If I may ask, what style is it written in, if any? Is there a name for the particular rhyme scheme/rhythm or is it of your own devising?


message 15: by John (last edited Dec 09, 2017 09:13AM) (new)

John Thanks for the kind words, Poppy Seed. It's gratifying to know it comes across like that.

Kat, the lines are plain old iambic pentameter ((daDA daDA daDA daDA daDA) with a mixture of masculine (daDA, as in "the SEA") and feminine (daDAda, as in "unRAVelled") endings. They're written in quatrains, each with an "envelope" or "enclosed" rhyme-scheme (abba).

John


message 16: by Kat (new)

Kat John wrote: "Thanks for the kind words, Poppy Seed. It's gratifying to know it comes across like that.

Kat, the lines are plain old iambic pentameter ((daDA daDA daDA daDA daDA) with a mixture of masculine (da..."


Thank you for telling me! It sounds lovely so I was curious.


back to top