2018 Poetry

The Woolf Quarterly Poetry Competition

Congratulations the 2018 winning poet, Bruce Meyer, and to everyone who entered our Inaugural Poetry Competition!

Judge’s comments

The ten poems shortlisted for the competition all picked up the given subject of snow and sculpted it into shape. Switzerland, home of the competition and, presumably, of the shortlisted poets, might have inspired a clutch of poems on the exhilaration of skiing, of glaciers, of the lovely woods dark and deep, the grandeur of the Alps. But that proved happily not to be the case.

Snow piled into the poems as something of a threat, beyond the windscreen. It entered the kitchen and melted to domesticity. It became human, flaky like us. Generation snowflake quickly led to trigger warnings. It swirled, like Marilyn in her white dress, in a warm updraft.

What I liked about the winning poem “Tom Thomson, First Snow, 1915” was the distance the snow crossed in travelling towards the reader, a distance in time as well as space. The poem’s voice stood back and observed the long fall a century ago. The first snow, so to speak, was late in coming. The name in the title intrigued, suggesting an autobiographical connection but rebuffing it at the same time: unless the poet is well into his or her second century!

First snow is memorable, of course, entrancingly so, and enjambment in this winning poem follows the declensions, the decline of memory from line to line:

           Through the falling flakes,
           I am certain I can see
           the future, the bone birches
           like brides waiting for promises,
           and the rise of tomorrow
           in the far hills;

Those “bone birches”, with their touch of Plath, seem to tremble at the prospect of tomorrow. One can see the resemblance between bridal gowns, laden down birches and dejection: brides left standing at the altar of the war. The phrasing and lineation are assured, suggesting more than stating, but not auguring well for the war in full slaughter in 1915 or for the century that is to follow or that has followed. The poem plays tricks with time and perspective: is it looking back “at the world and time” or looking forward “at the rise of tomorrow / in the far hills”?

It is this ominous note, the old trope of snow falling “on all the living and the dead,” as the Irish writer James Joyce put it in the same year, 1915, which gives the poem its shiver. That shiver comes beautifully, coldly, in the last verse:

             that the future is waiting
             to take my breath away,
             beyond the skeletal stand.

The apparent sweep of this verse disguises its suggestiveness. The child, if it is a child, is too young to enlist or be conscripted: one import of “beyond the skeletal stand”. With hindsight, we know the body count, the number of breaths taken away in the course of the Great War. This closing verse, and the poem’s intriguing title and address, play with the knowledge of hindsight. The final word “stand” implies a military position, as well as a copse of trees, all the while undercut by the adjective “skeletal”.

“Tom Thomson, First Snow, 1915” is a wonderfully intriguing poem. It has been a pleasure to encounter it and all the poems shortlisted for this competition.

Padraig Rooney
September 2018


Meet the winner of The Woolf’s 2018 Poetry Competition:

Bruce Meyer (Winner)

Definitions of Snow, Masterpieces, Snowflake and Tom Thomson (Winning Poem)

Bruce Meyer

Bruce Meyer lives in Barrie, Ontario, Canada and teaches at Georgian College and at Victoria College in the University of Toronto.

He is author and editor of more than sixty books, including the short story collection, A Feast of Brief Hopes (Guernica Editions) and The First Taste: New and Selected Poems (Black Moss Press).


And, in alphabetical order, the joint runners-up:

Francesco E.A. Jannetta

The Fall

Francesco E.A. Jannetta was born in Berne and grew up in the rural Canton of Uri, located in the heart of the Swiss Alps. He briefly studied law at the University of Lucerne before joining the Swiss Armed Forces for a year. Since 2015, he has been studying English and History at the University of Basel and is currently aiming for his Masters degree. Next to studying literature, Francesco Jannetta produces poetry and prose himself. Momentarily, he still writes as a hobby, but hopes to be able to expand his passion for writing in the future. He endeavours to capture the lived experiences of participants of the everyday and their bids to succeed in a surreally digitalised and post-post-modern world in his writing.


Elizabeth Morton

Everything That Evaporates

Elizabeth Morton is a writer who has published in New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, the UK, Canada and the USA. She was feature poet in the Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2017, and is included in Best Small Fictions 2016. Her first poetry collection, Wolf, was published with Mākaro Press in 2017. In 2013 she won the New Voices Emerging Poets Competition.

Elizabeth is completing an MLitt at the University of Glasgow, usually in her pajamas. She likes to write about broken things, and things with teeth.



Jill Munro

White Out

Jill Munro’s poetry has appeared in various magazines including The Frogmore Press, The Fenland Reed & The Rialto. Her first collection ‘Man from La Paz’ was published in 2015 by Green Bottle Press, London. She won the Fair Acre Press Pamphlet Competition with ‘The Quilted Multiverse’ (2016) and won the O’Bheal Five Words International Poetry competition this year. Jill has been awarded a Hawthornden Fellowship for 2018.


Kate Paine

First Glance

Kate is an Australian writer, teacher, and musician who lives with her family in Meilen, Kanton Zurich. Last year she won the Inaugural Woolf Short Story Competition, and she has also published creative nonfiction. She’s putting the finishing touches to an historical novel as part of a PhD in creative writing.

Kate has a writing (academic and creative) and research skills coaching consultancy, and, on the music side, teaches piano and singing, and regularly sings with a big band and her jazz-piano playing husband.


Anna-Rose Shack

Generation Snowflake

Anna-Rose Shack is currently completing a Research Master’s in Literary Studies at the University of Amsterdam, specialising in English Renaissance theatre. She has an enduring passion for reading, writing and performing poetry, something that was nurtured through Speech and Drama.

When she’s not immersed in the works of Shakespeare she can often be found baking cakes, running in the park or reading about Japanese gardens.


Solomon Au Yeung

The Cycle of Life

Solomon Au Yeung is an in-service teacher working at a local primary school in Tai O, on Hong Kong’s Lantau Island. He is studying for his Master’s in Learning and Teaching part-time with the University of Oxford. He has published articles in The Economic Journal, The Huffington Post, Buzzfeed and HK01, and not long ago he discovered a new interest in poetry.




2018 Poetry Competition Shortlist

Announced 1st November

Poem titles rather than poets are listed in order to preserve anonymity for our judge, as many people submitted more than one poem. As several poems have the same title, we’ve included the first few words to identify the particular entry.

Congratulations to all shortlisters!

Winners will be announced and published on 1st December in our Winter Issue.

Shortlisted Poems, in alphabetical order, are:

  1. Definitions of Snow
  2. Everything That Evaporates
  3. First Glance
  4. Generation Snowflake
  5. Masterpieces
  6. Snowflake (Barely able …)
  7. The Cycle of Life
  8. The Fall
  9. Tom Thompson
  10. White Out


2018 Poetry Competition Longlist

Announced 1st October

Thank you to all who entered our inaugural poetry competition! Poems were of an impressively high standard and approached the theme from dramatically differing angles. Around 25% of poets were ‘local’ to Switzerland, and we had entries from across Europe, from the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Poem titles rather than poets are listed in order to preserve anonymity for our judge, as many people submitted more than one poem. Where two poems have the same title, we’ve included the first few words to identify the particular entry.

Congratulations to all longlisters!

Longlisted poems*, in alphabetical order, are:

  1. A Glass Bead Curtain
  2. A Snowflake Affair
  3. Cold cold
  4. Definitions of Snow
  5. Eskimo Soul
  6. Everything That Evaporates
  7. Falling Here
  8. First Glance
  9. Generation Snowflake
  10. Masterpieces
  11. Pure
  12. Snow Crabs
  13. Snowflake (I Know You …)
  14. Snowflake (Barely able …)
  15. Snowflakes (I so wish …)
  16. Successful Search
  17. Tom Thompson
  18. The Ascendancy of Snowflakes
  19. The Cold
  20. The Cramped Snowflake
  21. The Cycle of Life
  22. The Fall
  23. Walk on Snow
  24. White Out
  25. Winter’s Petal

Congratulations to you all!


Our 2018 Inaugural Poetry Competition theme:

Every issue of The Woolf follows a theme. In December 2018 we’ll be interrogating the theme “Snowflake”.


  • 1st Prize – 150 CHF plus publication in the December 2018 issue of The Woolf
  • 2nd Prize – 100 CHF plus publication in the December 2018 issue of The Woolf
  • 3rd Prize – 50 CHF plus publication in the December 2018 issue of The Woolf

Closing Date

1st September 2018 (midnight CET).


A longlist will be publicly announced on 1st October 2018.


A shortlist will be publicly announced on 1st November 2018. Shortlistees will be notified in advance via email.


All three winning entries will be published in The Woolf December 2018 issue. All entrants will be notified in advance via email with the results.

Judge: Padraig Rooney

Born in Ireland, Padraig Rooney studied at Maynooth College and at the Sorbonne. His books include In The Bonsai Garden which won the Patrick Kavanagh Award for Poetry in 1986, The Escape Artist which won the Poetry Business Competition in 2005 and The Fever Wards, published by Salt in 2010. He won the Strokestown International Poetry Prize in 2009 and has been the recipient of two Irish Arts Council bursaries. He has taught abroad for many years and lives in Basel, Switzerland.

His poems and stories have appeared in Best Irish Short Stories 2 & 3 (Paul Elek, 1977, 1978), Phoenix Irish Short Stories (Phoenix, 1997), Scanning the Century: The Penguin Book of Poetry in the Twentieth Century (Penguin Viking, 1999), Haiku World: An International Poetry Almanac (Kodansha International, 1996), The Haiku Seasons (Kodansha International, 1996), The Backyards of Heaven: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry (2003), Dancing With Kitty Stobling: The Patrick Kavanagh Award Winners 1971-2003 (Lilliput Press, 2004) and Our Shared Japan: An Anthology of Contemporary Irish Poetry (Dedalus, 2007) and Best Irish Poetry in English 2010 (Southword editions, 2010).


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