Cha "Betrayal" Poetry Contest – winners


Thank you to all the poets who sent work to Cha‘s “Betrayal” Poetry contest. Judges Andrew Barker and Tammy Ho Lai-Ming have selected the following six poems as the finalists. Please scroll down to read the poets’ biographies and their commentaries on the poems. All six poems will be published in Issue #20 of the journal, with Andy Barker’s commentary. The issue will be launched at AWP in March 2013. We would like to take this opportunity to thank our patron from the San Francisco Bay Area who generously donated the cash prizes.

Also see our previous poetry contests, “Encountering” and “The Past”.
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FIRST PRIZE WINNER £85

Shirani Rajapakse on “Questions Left Unanswered”: Sri Lanka’s recent past is wracked with incidents of suicide bombings, of young Tamil women strapping bombs to their breasts and blasting themselves in public places in the capital. Most of the young women come to the city with stories of horror and poverty or in search of jobs; they find lodging in residential areas and live like any normal person would. No one knows their true mission until a bomb explodes and they find the remains of a head. And then story is pieced together. Their deaths leave many questions unanswered to the people who give them lodging. This poem was written from the point of view of a man who marries a suicide bomber never realising her true nature. The betrayal he feels and the shock and horror of not knowing anything about the woman he shares a life with for fifteen years shatters his thinking and leaves him wondering about life and what else he has missed.

30-word bio: Shirani Rajapakse is a Sri Lankan poet and author. Her work is widely published in international magazines and anthologies.

SECOND PRIZE WINNER £55
“Uriah” by Theophilus Kwek

Theophilus Kwek on “Uriah”I was brought up in a relatively conservative Christian family, and Bible stories (including that of David and Bathsheba) have been part of family devotions and Sunday School lessons since young. Arguably the most important character in this particular episode, however – the betrayed and eventually murdered husband of Bathsheba – has always come across as a shadow, without a prominent voice, or even a ‘moral of the story’, to his name. In the bigger picture, Uriah, ethnically Hittite and hence Gentile at birth, also exemplifies a rare but oft-untold perspective of Jewish cultural history: few events in the Israelite narrative, after all, hinge on an outsider such as he. I wrote this in an attempt to imagine the familiar anecdote through his eyes, and to flesh out the universal contrast between (his) loyalty and (her) betrayal as they must have played out in the court of Jerusalem.

30-word bio: Recently conscripted for mandatory National Service, Theophilus Kwek continues to write and dream about home and life beyond the barbed-wire fence.

THIRD PRIZE WINNER £35
“The Third is a Betrayal” by Sumana Roy

Sumana Roy on “The Third is a Betrayal”I find myself living in a culture infested by abundance. That abundance, unfortunately, is not surplus. When I came to T.S. Eliot’s ‘third’ in The Waste Land, I found myself thinking about that ‘third’ as adulterous. We use that word almost always for the ‘extra’ in marriages, the ‘extra-marital’ as it’s accusatively called. In trying to write about love in marriages, I found that the ‘extra’ became the ‘third’ in my poem. When I was younger, I liked to think that postmodernism had encouraged this life of thirdness. Now I feel I know better: all our relationships are betrayals for the third is not necessarily a ‘name-place-animal-thing’. We are our third. We are the third.

30-word bio: Sumana Roy lives in Siliguri, a small town in sub-Himalayan Bengal, India.

HIGHLY-RECOMMENDED £15 each

Ian Chung on “The Virgin From Gibeah”: This poem is actually part of a longer sequence that I produced for my final year personal writing project at the University of Warwick. My intention with most of the poems in this sequence was to give a voice to Biblical characters that otherwise remain silent in their respective narratives, like the virgin of Gibeah in Judges 19. I find it intriguing to flesh out their stories, to imagine what might have brought them to the point when their lives intersected with a particular Biblical story in what typically amounts to a cameo appearance, or to speculate about where they might have gone on from there.

30-word bio: Ian Chung graduated from the Warwick Writing Programme. He edits Eunoia Review, and reviews for Sabotage Reviews and The Cadaverine.


Amy Uyematsu on “The Dare”: Many women have experienced a drunk and angry man.

30-word bio: Amy Uyematsu is a poet from Los Angeles. She has three published collections, the most recent being Stone Bow Prayer.

Heather Bell on “Survivor’s Guilt”:  When I wrote “Surviver’s Guilt,” I was on a funny little tangent about poetry, concerning whether or not poems need to be “true to your life” when you write them and then have them published. After I had “Love” published in Rattle, I started receiving a lot of emails from other writers asking me if this was a true account of Klimt’s life. I guess my point was, does it matter? It really got me thinking about how important this seems to be for fellow poets (and which I did not realize previously) and what that means for creative writing in general. People seem to crave “truth” in some form, no matter what they are reading. So, I will say this: my grandmother died around the time that I wrote “Survivor’s Guilt.” Is the poem about a grandmother? No. What I intended was to write around the issue, to leave a reader with a sense of “truth” in a way that you have to wonder about these characters and also wonder about a deeper human thing: grief and how each person will keep a piece of another person, in whatever way they have to in order to survive.

30-word Bio: Heather Bell has published four books. Any more details can be found here.

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