I’ve read through all the TLS competition shortlisted poems. And here’s my verdict.
A - This was OK. Good final image and decent, gradual build-up. But it doesn't stand out. It's a bit obvious. Well written though. As a side-issue, I think I heard this poem read during the StAnza Festival, although I could be wrong. But I think I know who wrote this one. If I'm right, it's not one of this fine writer's best poems.
B- I didn't think much of this. It's way overlong to make a point which I felt had been imposed on the images rather than stemming from them. And it needs cutting.
C - Interesting attempt to connect the snake skin and war, but I didn’t feel too convinced. Overheated metaphor.
D - I quite like this. I might give it my runner-up vote. In S3 there are adjective noun pairings in similar positions in each line, which I thought were noticeable, not in a good way. But the poem works well by clever implication.
E - Good poem. The images are strong and clear. There's good use of form and rhyme. The biblical allusions and political overtones engage with big issues, so the poem is more than just a clever piece of work. It gets my vote for sure.
F - Starts well with good humour. It collapses with news of the death. The line "those numbers don't add up to naught" is the worst line in the whole shortlist and should have disqualified this one from consideration. But the second half of the poem is poor generally.
G - OK, good use of form, strong detail in initial stanzas, nicely written. But no point being made. OK, it's an ordinary day when the bomb goes off. And...?
H - zzz...zzzz...zzzz...zzzz... Sorry, it's the shortest poem, but I fell asleep before the end.
I - Enjoyable, well written and humorous. Could win, as readers who like their poetry to sound authentically 1910-ish will vote for this one. There might be a lot of votes in that. It is genuinely entertaining, fun, and technically skilful. I'd give it third place.
J - So what? Black guy is vicar and his style doesn't fit this immigration officer’s expectations. Lots of casual, chit-chatty prose masquerading as contemporary "voice". Annoying poem that shouldn't have been shortlisted.
K - If Simon Armitage didn't write this (and I suspect he didn't), he should be flattered that someone else has so internalised his style. In a hundred years’ time, we might think of this sort of poem as an example of an "Armitage," as distinct from a poem written by Simon Armitage. It’s well enough written, so if SA did write it, it’s not one of his best, but still pretty good.
(and if your poem is in there and I've slagged it off, please don't get too mad at me. It's only one poem)