Eric Berlin’s poem Night Errand was named winner of the Poetry Society’s 38th national poetry competition, a prize which each year rewards unpublished single poems from a colossal number of entries.
Berlin, a freelance editor and teacher who lives near Syracuse, New York, follows in the considerable footsteps of previous winners including the poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, Helen Dunmore, Jo Shapcott, Tony Harrison and Ruth Padel.
Night Errand was one of more than 12,000 poems from 73 countries entered for the prize. All the poems were read by a judging panel of three poets Sarah Howe, Esther Morgan and David Wheatley, who had no idea of the authorship.
Howe said Night Errand was “one of those poems that wouldn’t let you move on, but demanded a pause to dwell and recoup, followed by the compulsion to read it again … Its initial grip gave way to a sort of haunting”.
Night Errand seems to be about one sleep-deprived father’s trip to a depressing shopping mall in upstate New York. By the end, it is about him shouting at his partner. “I did it again -/ I screamed at the woman I love, and in front/ of our one-year-old son, who covered his ears.”
Howe praised the poem’s subtlety and complexity. “Through its artful control of sound and line, its powers of image and perception, Night Errand dramatises a cry of pain at the damage we’re capable of doing to others.”
Berlin, who teaches courses such as Ear Training for Poets at the Downtown Writers’ Centre in New York State, receives £5,000 for his winning poem.
David Hawkins was runner-up for Long Distance Relationship with a Mountain. MORE