‘Tradition is not the repository of ashes but the preservation of fire,’ as Gustav Mahler once apparently wrote, and there was plenty of poetic fire, traditional and otherwise, in this year’s entries to Charm.
Our winner Vijaya Venkatesan goes far into the past for inspiration, all the way to the Phoenicians, before stopping over in the fourteenth century on her way back and almost cutting off her oxygen supply in the process (that’ll teach you). What I liked was the way this poem, Boustrophedon, forces us to read very carefully and wears its learning light-heartedly. I’m wondering when the word boustrophedon was first coined and which genius was responsible – probably already realizing how useful it would be for poetry competition entrants in 2022 and having a quiet chuckle to her (or more likely him) self as the eureka moment struck. A scholar in the great library at Alexandria perhaps, in a comfortable fug among the papyri, thrilled not to be outside working the plough yet aware of the need to appear severely stressed by his own kind of heavy working-from-home sort of labour. We know what he was up to.