John Gallas – England


John won the 2016 Poetry prize and is returning to Maelor for a third time in 2019.

John Gallas was born and raised in Nelson and St Arnaud New Zealand. He came to England in the 1970s to study Old Icelandic, and stayed. He returns home for a part of each year. John has had ten collections published by Carcanet Press (no.11, ‘The Little Sublime Comedy’ out in June this year), and others by Cold Hub (NZ), Agraphia Press, Five Leaves, Magpie and Indigo Dreams. He lives in Markfield, Leics. after happily recently being made redundant from 25 years’ work with the Student Support Service. He is presently working on a series of Love Poems, and a treacherous tale of gold and murder in early 20th Century NZ. He is a fellow of the English Association, Poet at St Magnus Festival, Orkney. Librettist for two music-works, and an avid-casual bicyclist.


Winning Poem: How to make a Chough : an Origami Poem

 Begin quietly, and in the dark,

with a bird-base that has been hatched at sea.


Do not be scrupulous as the steersman,

or neglectful like the moon.


Lift a little light from winter’s mew and strand,

and take up the wide, pitch-paper .


First, make the midnight plume

by folding ink and slate across the horizon,


and then unfolding carefully back

to where the steel-blue raincloud lies.


Next, the wings in shining helmet-crankles

fit for kings, beside the still-beating heart.


Then press softly with thumb and forefinger

along the prickling air, whose flying-line may be


the whisper of a cleaving eye,

or the prow of a bloodied beak.


To make the skulking- cave,

take neap-lines from the draught-devouring tide


and crease them to the salt-cliff’s foot.

Stand this beside the water’s edge.


Display your bird.

Darkness drifts down in folded lines to the sea.