Roberta Beary won joint first prize for her poem After You Self-Medicate with Roethke’s The Waking Read by Text-to-Speech App, which you can see below, in the prestigious Bridport Prize international creative writing competition. Acclaimed novelist Kate Atkinson said of the competition that it helped her find ‘her voice’.
Roberta’s poem found a home with The Bridport Prize after it had been rejected sixty times, yet Roberta never stopped believing in it. The competition’s Poetry judge, Inua Ellams described the poem’s ‘halting startling imagery’ and ‘comments on feminine interdependence and maternal love’ as the reasons it stood out for him. ‘We glimpse the human spirit and expand our understandings of contemporary life. Roberta said ‘Now I know it’s real. I was thrilled to get that call from the Bridport Prize telling me I’d won.’
The first prize winners share the £5,000 Poetry prize. Roberta lives in County Mayo Ireland with husband, Frank Stella.
This poem was first published in the Bridport Prize Anthology 2022 where readers also can find the other winning poems. The anthology is available for purchase here, https://bridportprize.org.uk/shop/
After You Self-Medicate with Roethke’s The Waking Read by Text-to-Speech App
You’re in one of your weepy moods and your mother turns her sea green eyes and lifts your baby from your arms and says did you ever notice her little heart shaped face so like yours and you say no but now that you mention it and you smile as your mother hands you back your baby who opens to your breast and afterwards watches you with milk drunk eyes half closed as you unlatch and when you turn your mother is gone and the baby is sleeping so you lay her on the lighthouse quilt while you answer the doorbell and sign for yet another package and your mother is somewhere you can’t see no matter how many corners you scan as you lift the lighthouse quilt and what falls away is always and is near and the baby you hold looks nothing like your baby well maybe a little in the curve of her mouth or the way one eye is slightly higher than the other or perhaps it is the heart shape of the tiny face that is somewhat familiar in her dress of yellow polka dots and just then your daughter asks you for her baby and what falls away is always and is near and you lift the baby who watches you with milk drunk eyes half closed and as you lay her in your daughter’s arms the lighthouse quilt slips to the floor and the doorbell rings you sign for yet another package you tell yourself the ache is for that long ago stray your mother brought home how he followed your every forbidden step and you feel yourself get weepy in a way your daughter never does not even when your mother died but she did a lovely job with the memorial photos that one of the three of you in matching yellow polka dots and what falls away is always and is near and you do your timed breathing standing at the window where the magnolia petals brush the rain or is it the other way around which is something your mother would know and you tell yourself that when people say weave the unspoken words into a letter to read at the graveside they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about and the magnolia unfurls its petals as the rain sings a lullaby you once knew but now is a fragment of bees buzzing over the figs that have fallen as you lay in the shade of your mother’s yellow polka dots while you wait for her to say something momentous but she only asks for her reading glasses and the two nurses erase her name from the whiteboard and you go back to your timed breathing until your daughter says would you mind holding the baby and her sea green eyes look weepy like a memory tucked inside your pocket and you lift the baby from your daughter’s arms and as the lighthouse quilt slips the baby unfurls her fists and smiles a crescent moon and you say did you ever notice the baby’s little heart shaped face so like yours and your daughter says no but now that you mention it and you hear your mother calling from inside your other pocket and what falls away is always and is near.
About The Bridport Prize
Now in its 50th year, the international writing competition helps fund Bridport Arts Centre. Passionate about discovering writing talent from around the world, previous winners include novelist Kate Atkinson MBE, Kit de Waal, and Deepa Anappara. Former judges include Monica Ali, Roger McGough and Zoe Heller. Many writers have launched their careers with The Bridport Prize and ended up on the best sellers list.
The 50th competition is now open for Poetry, Short Story, Flash Fiction and Novel. Deadline 31 May 2023. Bursaries are available.
See more about the Bridport Prize here: www.bridportprize.org.uk