Start writing!

'What Is Truth?' is now being marked, and the winner will be announced on Wednesday. Competitions run Monday to Friday - new title to be released on Monday. Sign up to be notified by email.


18th September 2018

Deciding on a theme for Hour of Writes is a tricky business. It must be precise enough to inspire writers to create pieces with clear connections to the theme, but broad enough that each entry will be unique. Of all things Attack And Receive could have been inspired by, it came from a playing card in the franchise that dominated my childhood: Yu-Gi-Oh. With such an aggressive phrase, I was hoping for war, embittered couples, and intrigue. I was delighted to find all this, alongside some whimsy.

I was immediately drawn to Entry 3155, which explores a situation too many of us will be familiar with. It reminds us that those who suffer from violence often turn to violence, that this cycle is not easily broken. Entry 3155 also shows that there can be a lot of power in simple language.

Entry 3160, Red Poppy Boy (gets what’s coming to him), has a lovely rhythm that drives the reader through a story of addiction and consequence. This can be seen especially in the second stanza, with: ‘an A1 stealer / all state receiver / a total syringe believer’. Successfully employing rhythm always makes a poem more compelling.

With Entry 3163, we see a regular structure and rhythm used to great effect. The images were very vivid, essential for communicating a story with such a degree of movement and as many changes in scene. I particularly enjoyed the shift in scale in: 

‘Zipping through the midges and the dragonflies / We crest the spikes and fall into a murderous scrum’,

making the poem more dynamic and cinematic. 

For me, Entry 3159 was the obvious winner. Gentle and concise, the piece takes us ‘inch by inch’ through a race. The poem is dense with imagery, and it is a credit to the author that they evoked such a strength of feeling in me with so few lines. I keep returning to: 

‘The last water gone / Like legs / with nothing left / except blisters, cramp, / tiredness beyond enduring’

drawn by its subtlety of rhythm and simplicity of language.

Thank you to everyone who entered. Judging this competition was a wonderful excuse to sit down, have a cup of tea, and immerse myself in varied poetry and prose. You each responded to the prompt differently, making this process an absolute pleasure. I hope you all continue to write great work for Hour of Writes, and for yourselves.


About The Judge

Jack Cooper works at the University of Oxford, in a laboratory that uses the sexual courtship of fruitflies as a model to understand core features of development and behaviour. His poetry has been longlisted for the National Poetry Competition, and shortlisted for The New Poets Prize and Segora Poetry Competition amongst others. Stephen King, Final Fantasy, and K-Pop are the great loves of his life.

You can find him on Twitter at @JackCooper666, and on Instagram at @JackCooper0696



A lie that’s only whispered,
not said but just implied.
When the truth has been forgotten,
who was the first to lie.

White lies told to children,
the lies that help us cope.
When the truth can only hurt us,
it’s the lies that give us hope.

When black and white is not the hue,
and grey is all you see.
Please bite your tongue and keep it in,
and always lie to me.

Recent ShowNotes

Testing… The… Site

Last week's competition

Last Week's Winner!

Winning entry by Alobear
Drip. Drip. Drip.

Tara’s breath evened out to the rhythm of the coffee machine, the rich dark liquid steadily dripping into the pot. Her morning run complete, she used the coffee’s percolation time to do some stretches. Then she puttered around the tiny kitchen, checking supplies and tidying away the previous night’s crockery.

A pair of shrill beeps told her the coffee pot was full and a smile spread across her face. She crossed to the machine and reached up to snag a pouch from the cupboard above it. Unscrewing the cap, she grabbed the plastic funnel from its place on the counter and fitted its long tube into the pouch’s nozzle. She held the pouch and funnel securely in one hand and picked up the coffee pot in the other, carefully pouring the hot liquid into the funnel’s wide dish. Once the pouch was full, Tara tossed the funnel into the sink, closing the pouch and slotting it into the holder on her belt.

Now she was ready for her rounds, her list of tests and checks memorised from many repetitions.

Tara crossed the kitchen in two short steps and pulled the metal lever to unseal the door. She dragged it open and stepped out onto the walkway beyond. She grasped the sides of the ladder on the opposite wall and climbed up to the hatch in the ceiling. Keeping herself steady on the ladder with one arm slung over the rungs, she reached up to pull the hatch open. The long tunnel leading to the central spoke of the spinning module stretched above her.

At first, the climb was hard work but the effort gradually started to ease. The closer Tara got to the centre, the lighter she felt and the easier it was to pull herself up the ladder. When she reached the end and turned ninety degrees to enter the wider tunnel that led to the main section of the ship, she didn’t need a ladder. All she had to do was push off the hatch and her momentum allowed her to sail through the tunnel in zero gravity.

Tara played a game against herself every day, to see how far down the tunnel she could get without touching the walls. She lined herself up as straight as she could and shoved off the hatch behind her, keeping her body streamlined. She made it past the sixth bulkhead panel before she drifted to the left and bumped into the tunnel wall. Certainly not her best distance, but respectable.

She opened the hatch at the far end and pulled herself into the control room, guiding her feet into the magnetic boots that waited there. They locked in place around her ankles and she put her arms out to the sides to help her balance. Once she felt secure, she pulled one boot free, swung it forwards in an approximation of a normal stride and clunked it down again. Her progress in the boots was ungainly, but it was easier than trying to check readouts and manipulate machinery while free-floating.

Out of the window, space stretched out in its endless blackness. Tara’s little living module spun on its spoke, creating the small pocket of gravity that allowed her some semblance of normality in her daily life. She had run two complete circuits of the ring before making coffee and her time had been one of her best yet.

The hydroponics bay was her first stop. The botanists back on Earth had done an excellent job of engineering a wide range of plants that could grow in zero gravity, and the fresh food they produced to supplement the caretaker’s rations was abundant. The range of vibrant colours brightened the monotony of Tara’s days. Everything looked as it should, so Tara moved on, promising herself another stop to pick up some fruit on her way back to the living module.

Next came the passenger compartment, the largest section of the ship. Tara paused at the entryway to check the readouts on the colonist pods. There was an alarm system hooked up to the screens in her cabin, in case of emergency, but she came to check in person once per day as part of her duties. The bank of ten thousand lights that represented the cryogenically frozen colonists showed green across the board. Power flow was uninterrupted, nutrition provision was steady, everyone was sleeping soundly.

Tara nodded in satisfaction and turned her heavy tread to the smaller crew compartment further along. Her heartbeat sped up as she drew closer, anticipation fuelling her steps. The checks proceeded as they had for the passenger compartment. All looked good. Here, though, Tara unlatched the door and went inside. Two hundred pods lined up before her in ten neat rows. She walked down the third row, past her own empty pod at number forty-two, until she reached pod number fifty-eight.

Looking down through the frosted glass, she beheld the sleeping features beneath. She smiled and reached out one hand to lay her fingers as if stroking the occupant’s cheek.

“Hey, Alice,” she said aloud in the empty air. “How’s it going, love?”

She leaned up against the next pod in line and gazed at Alice’s serene and beautiful face. Pulling her coffee pouch free, she unscrewed the cap and put the nozzle to her mouth, sucking up the still-hot liquid.

“Ah, that hits the spot. So, not much to report on my end, I’m afraid. Same old, same old. Still, it’s good to have a routine, right? I have to say, though, mine’s getting a bit old.”

Tara unhooked a scalpel from her belt and scratched a small mark on the side of Alice’s pod. It completed the twelfth set of tally marks. Day sixty of her six-month stint as caretaker. Four more months and she could hand over to the next crew member and go back to sleep for the rest of the one-hundred year journey, speeding her progress until she could be reunited with Alice on their new home.

My Notes