Liv Rowland - Judge

Liz Bevan

A Matter of Concern

You’ll never save the world like that



It permeates everything now.  You turn on the tap and you worry that you are wasting water.  You turn on the heating and worry about your usage of gas and the emissions it causes.  You wander outside and smell the stink of pollution in the air.  You go to the supermarket and spend ages in front of a shelf of tinned tuna, wondering whether it’s still worthwhile trying to find dolphin-friendly tuna, or was that yesterday’s panic and measures have been put in place so that we’ve stopped drowning dolphins in tuna fishing nets now.  And if that’s the case, why are some tins still labelled “dolphin friendly”?  You dither about what packaging is recyclable whilst berating yourself for buying things that are over-packaged in the first place.  You hear about people sitting in traffic jams for hours with cars pumping out noxious emissions, or you sit in these very traffic jams yourself to get to and from work.  And when you’ve confronted all these issues, day after day, you wonder how and why we have all been complicit in some way in the construction of such a society.  And why we are so slow to deal with it.  And why so many so-called brilliant people are working in business, still spouting about growth, still basing their careers on making a profit and little else.

Any perusal of the Guardian newspaper and the below the line comments gives you just a little insight into what other people might be thinking.  Some of the comments are downright hilarious, some of the metaphors witty and acerbic.  Baling out a sinking ship with a thimble, you read over your breakfast toast the other day.  There are many more, but nobody seems to be listening.  For some it’s an echo-chamber.  You mix with like-minded people which reinforces your own ideas, because mixing with people who think that it’s not worth us high-minded Europeans doing anything until China and the USA clean up their respective acts is too frightening.  What can you say?  Do you drop litter in the street because other people do?  Does it make you feel like a witless sap trying to do your bit when nobody else ever seems to take the bus instead of their car?  When people (maybe you, too, sometimes – you can admit it because we’re all in the same boat, baling out with a thimble) splash out on clothes, make nell ourselves that we are worth it – how does all that make you feel?  Of course, before you bought or ordered the items in question, you checked the price, you checked to see where it was made, what the conditions were like in the factory which manufactured the item, how many miles it had to travel before it reached you, how it was packaged, did the delivery company treat its drivers in a humane fashion….  Oh, maybe you didn’t have time to do all that?  And how does that make you feel?


Mary Gilonne

 1st Prize Poetry

Katherine Gallagher - Judge

 ‘How to leave’

It will start

with a sea-dog’s clinker-built cabin trunk, it’s seen

 a few things. Flush below two brass handles,

an old stencil of a red-sailed wherry coasting,

simply coasting on varnished water,

shiny as a broad sword. I’ll pack my atlas

of possible places, that trust of resting keys,

and in the space between the rope of salted

canvas shoes scrabbled with last year’s sand,

I’ll cache away my childhood’s fragile sea-glass finds,

Blue as mislaid eyes.


It will continue

with two greying boxes, your abandoned one and mine,

full of echoes and a restless rattling of things

we could have done maybe if we’d had less time.

They’ll fit the corners fitfully. I’ll leave behind

my Matryoshka doll and her nested housewifery,

but pack those Lost Ark stories, that Don’t believe

 Everything you Hear compendium with its acid green

Cover, and a barometer I can count on. A grappling iron

to clasp me into shore during heavy squalls of falsity,

and a kaleidoscope for finding vanished horizons.


It will finish

with a filigree mirror just for the glitz of it, that trivial joy

 of looking in and back. A silk stole dripping with lost

 bees and butterflies for old planet’s sake, before I forget.

A mariner’s secret compartment will hide a riot of all the words

I never dared say on Zoom, bright semaphores signalling

this long sleeplessness of missing touch, and before the lid

 is locked, a string of life-buoys, named floats to show the way,

I’ll seal those old-wive tales in a whale-skin pouch to ballast

My keeling tender, and add the whole weight of broken promises.

A cabin trunk is made to last, it’ll weather now and what’s to come.


 Liv Rowland - Judge 30th January 2022   Winner: John Green (photo above left)

Peeling Onions (Excerpt)

There was no fanfare of trumpets, just an electric charge activating a bell inside a telephone. That’s how I came to know

that the most important event of my life was beginning to happen.I excused myself from the office and jumped into our ancient Zephyr Six. I drove in a daze of disbelief through that cold December morning towards the house where the two of us lived. Quickly, I gathered up the bits and pieces we’d put together in the spare room, threw them into a hold-all, zipped it… just as we’d practiced and rehearsed… but, this time, on my own. I ran down the stairs and back to the car. I got behind the wheel, put the key into the ignition and turned it… Nothing!

     “Damn! Flat battery!”

I ran to the bus stop, bag in hand. Through what was now becoming a real ‘pea-souper’ of a fog, the outline of a double

decker bus emerged. It picked me up and blindly crawled away.

     “Thank God!”

But this was not a well omnibus. Pulmonary problems, I surmised. At Walthamstow Dog Track, like a knobbled favourite,

the Routemaster coughed, groaned, wheezed and gave up the race. Forty odd years on, my memory is not clear on what

happened next but I believe another bus or maybe a taxi was involved. In any event, the next thing I know is finding myself

outside the maternity wing at Whipps Cross Hospital, Leytonstone.

Gasping requests for directions at every corner, I race up to the Delivery Suite, sweating and breathless. I find my wife there,

unexpectedly in labour.

“What kind of an Outpatient check-up was that?” I ask.


All results are now out and on this page.

We will be publishing other prizewinners' work on this website. Congratulations to everyone. We will be issuing the judges' reports under Comments. If you have difficulty adding your comments please email us pennibwritingcomp@gmail.com with feedback or add comments on our Facebook page.

All winners will be issued with certificates. Cash and other prizes will be distributed as soon as possible and we will be posting a list of who received what.. Please note our Zoom celebrations are on hold at present for technical reasons.

May I take this opportunity to thank our sponsors and the members of our team. Please do visit our sponsors and mention Pen Nib when you do so.  Finally I hope you have enjoyed the competitions. Without you none of this would have been possible. Thank you.

From my point of view it's been hard work but worth it. :) May you go from strength to strength with your writing.

Brenda (Présidente)

Below are some of the signed books available as prizes from acclaimed writers.


POETRY 2021    Katherine Gallagher - Judge 30th January 2022

2nd Prize

Nina Couser - Shells

3rd Prize

Roger Elkin - My last year in school


2nd Place  and special mentions for THE PEN NIB INTERNATIONAL WRITING COMPETITION-

ESSAY 2021    Liv Rowland - Judge 30th January 2022

Michael Noonan - Who guards the guardians?

Special Mention

Paul Janson - Willie and Dolly 

Christopher Craig - Admasu lives


AMUSE BOUCHE 2021    Liv Rowland - Judge 30th January 2022

2nd Prize

Stephanie Moore - The wolf and the beautiful woman

3rd Prize

Angela Gilligan – After the Ball

Special mention

Grahame Bryant – The time someone stole my bike

First place to follow


POETRY 2021    Katherine Gallagher - Judge 30th January 2022



Derek Sellen          Siblings

Gordon Aindow    Eriskay

Pam Job                My ‘Manderley’

Ella Leith               Saskia in The Night Watch




POETRY 2021    Katherine Gallagher - Judge 30th January 2022

 Winners and results of Essays, Amuse Bouche to follow



Gordon Aindow     The Weight of Water

Mary Gilonne          Aquarium

Anthony Kirk          Cape Cod morning 1950, Hopper

Pam Job                 At Peggy Guggenheim’s: a meditation on love and desire

Liz Bevan                Leaving

Helen Glover           When I am old




POETRY 2021    Katherine Gallagher - Judge 30th January 2022

In no particular order The long list consists of poems which have caught the judge's eye. It does not consist of all the entries.


Patrick Hargan


Things I miss


Helen Glover




Pamela Job


At Peggy Guggenheim's


Disrupted times


En vacances




Crow baby

 Just like peaches and Cream

The hard way


Liz Bevan





Nina Couser


How to be a girl



Gordon Aindow


The weight of Water



 Derek Sellen



The passage of a day


Mary Gilonne



How to leave


Roger Elkin


Falling Leaves

 The Rough and Smooth of Flat Roofers

 My last year in school


Anthony Kirk


 My ladies desk

 Cape Cod


Ella Leith



Saskia in the Night Watch


Dave Roberts



Stephanie Moore


 The dust of you


Shatter me


Sarah Hambly


Commotion in the Ocean


 Ada Gregory


One Sunday


 Martin Rieser


Two roses


Anna Saunders


Dream Of Fire




 Angela Gilligan




It is raining


 John Green




 Noel King


His walking stick