A note from the judges
George Szirtes, Poet
Jillian Barker, Director of Education, Information & Access, the National Gallery
The term ‘tweet’ suggests something, well, twee, or twittish, though neither tweeness nor twittishness need confine themselves to 140 characters. Twitter is in one sense a brand, in another it is a form as much as a haiku with its syllables, the epigram with its couplet, the limerick with its five lines, the distich in its classical measure, and so forth.
It is in effect a constraint, the kind of constraint on which poetry may thrive. Brevity, after all, is not just the soul of wit, it is also the soul of the lyric poem, so a 140-character piece of writing may be as lyrical, enigmatic, witty or substantial as the poet makes it.
But it takes some getting used to. One learns to live with forms, internalising them until they become second nature. Of the entries received a decent number were hovering around the ‘soul’ of a witty or lyrical poem, others were merely notations. What’s the difference? As with any poem there are certain characteristics of language - language, if you like, as pressure, language as energy, language as shape – that are important and are quickly apparent.
Our winner and the three shortlisted poems all show such qualities. Mostly they are small packets of elegance, deploying meter, rhyme and a real pleasure in sound and texture.
Next: Judges' feedback