Laurie Ogden’s What we are given

First prize, Annual Ambit Competition for Poems 2021, judged by Kim Addonizio, who said:

Laurie Ogden peels back layers of time and history to consider the pressure of the past on the present self, with compelling images and repetitions that whirl us from opening a matryoshka doll to the moment the speaker finds herself “still spitting echoes into the sink.” The prayerful ending of this short, gorgeous piece evokes a tentative hope and stubborn resilience.

I opened the matryoshka doll
and out came a grandmother, faded, coughing. I opened the grandmother
and out came a mother as a sobbing child, locked in a cupboard. I opened the mother
and out came a money spider which, hopeful, I opened
and out came an envelope that paper-cut my finger as I opened the letter
and out came a North-West wind that tore through the house, ripped off the roof,

to find me cowering in the bathroom, considering opening
me, I opened my mouth
and out came a banshee wail made of echoes, circling, a cycle, a cyclone.


I forced the doll shut but I’m still spitting echoes into the sink.
Let it end, let it end. Let it end
with me.

Laurie Ogden is a northern writer, currently based in London. Her previous work has been published in Mud Press’s Woman anthology, Bath MaggAnthropocene and Barbican Online. She is a former Jerwood/Arvon playwriting mentee. She has a pamphlet coming soon with Flipped Eye.

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