A new international poetry competition, in memory of distinguished Aberdeen poet and University of Hull alumni Gerard Rochford was launched on World Poetry Day on 21 March 2021. The Gerard Rochford Poetry Prize 2021 has been organised by the Mist and Mountain Creative Residency in collaboration with Gerard Rochford’s Literary Executors and will be judged by Dr Wayne Price, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Aberdeen.
That I sailed foolishly was plainPublished in Torch, Hull University, January 1956.
When the winds turned round
And my ship cut through the startled sea
My haven growing dimmer
Than the first words of love.
But even then, when I and the moon were silent
And only the water spoke,
In the hurl of the sea your voice came
Healing the salt fleshed hurt.
And the winds turned round.
© Gerard Rochford Poetry
Gerard studied English and Psychology at Hull University in the 1950s.
He threw himself enthusiastically into student life and was Chairman of the English Society, President of the Debating Union and Editor of The Torch to which he regularly contributed.
He even found time to play washboard and occasional spoons in a skiffle band led by Liverpool poet and fellow Hull alumnus Roger McGough. [Presenter of BBC Radio 4’s long running ‘Poetry Please’]
As Chairman of the English Society, Gerard visited Hull University’s most celebrated Librarian – poet Philip Larkin and invited him to do a talk for members. At first Larkin agreed but on the morning of the event, Gerard found a typically droll, hand written and signed note in his student pigeon hole from the esteemed poet which read, verbatim:
I’m afraid I cannot speak to your society today.
The truth is, I’m not really interested in Literature.
Gerard took the response in good spirit!
It’s no exaggeration to say Hull University was life-changing for Gerard for – apart from providing a stellar education in a creative campus hothouse – he made lifelong friendships and, most importantly, found the love of his life.
Anne Prime – an Anglo-Indian born in Lucknow, India, who had come to the UK as a child immigrant on the HMT Empire Windrush – met Gerard at Hull University where she was studying French and Latin.
Gerard, immediately smitten, wooed her with a poem about seeing her at the famous Hull Fair which was published in Torch.
The poem won her over and Gerard and Anne were married on 15 August 1959. They went on to have a large family of ten children – 7 girls and 3 boys and were married for 32 years until Anne’s death in 1991, aged 53.
Gerard wrote many poems for and about Anne over the decades, published in chapbooks, literary magazines and books – including this rather joyful one:
I Wanted to Write You a Villanelle© Gerard Rochford Poetry
We are driving along in the Transit van,
a harvest of children in the back,
laughing, singing, squabbling.
You shout out: Look, look, turnips!
Stop the car, stop! So I stop, you get out,
leap a ditch into the field,
pull a turnip up by its green hair
and run with triumph back into the van,
cradling the muddy head like a new-born baby.
I drive on fast, hoping nobody saw,
me guilty, children protesting,
you rejoicing in a gift of gold.
After graduating from Hull, Gerard had an academic career as Psychology Lecturer and Professor of Social Work. He also qualified as a psychotherapist providing his services well into his 80s. But it is his many fine accomplishments as a poet – and mentor of nascent poets – that is being celebrated in the Gerard Rochford Poetry Prize 2021, launched this month on the theme of ‘Family’.
NEW POETRY PRIZE IN MEMORY OF DISTINGUISHED
HULL ALUMNUS INVITES WORLDWIDE ENTRIES
A new international poetry competition, in memory of distinguished Hull alumnus, poet Gerard Rochford, has opened to worldwide entries this week.
The Gerard Rochford Poetry Prize 2021 – organised by the Mist and Mountain Creative Residency in collaboration with Gerard Rochford’s Literary Executors – invites writers to submit an original poem on the theme of ‘Family’.
The overall winner – selected by Dr Wayne Price, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Aberdeen – will receive £150 and a large, bespoke commemorative plate, courtesy of Campbeltown Pottery, featuring with an excerpt of Gerard Rochford’s poetry while two runners up will each receive small commemorative plates and £50.
Dr Wayne Price said: “I am honoured to judge the Gerard Rochford Poetry Prize 2021. Gerard was a highly accomplished poet, whose writings reflected a broad hinterland of experience, exploring human relationships, wildlife and politics. He was always generous with his time and advice too, nurturing and encouraging others to express themselves, write creatively and get into print. Hosting a competition in his name is an ideal way to acknowledge his achievements while promoting new poetry and poets as Gerard so often did in his lifetime.”
Brought up in Worcestershire, Gerard Rochford(1932 – 2019)lived most of his life in his adopted home city Aberdeen, where he was a distinguished professor and psychotherapist. Poetry was his true vocation and he was widely published in newspapers, influential online magazines, chapbooks and poetry collections. At the heart of Aberdeen’s vibrant poetry scene, Gerard was highly respected, not only for the quality of his own work, but for his generosity of spirit and time, mentoring and championing the work of nascent poets.
A regular visitor to Canada, Rochford established himself as a transatlantic poet and became an important and active part of the poetry scene in Victoria. Poetry was a lifetime labour of love but, as father to ten children with his wife Anne, who was of Indian descent, Gerard’s greatest joy was his family.
The closing date for entries to the Gerard Rochford Poetry Prize 2021 is 30 June 2021 and winners will be announced on Sunday 1 September 2021. Full details and entry rules for the competition are available on the Mist and Mountain Creative Residency website and the Gerard Rochford Poetry page.