By Waterloo Station

by Paul A. Freeman
The Write Idea
First Place, December 2019
Judged by Laurie Byro

By Waterloo Station I sat down and thought
(on a bench not too far from the turbulent stream)
of Edwardian London’s once dominant port,
and of trains puffing by, empowered by steam.
The air was redolent of sulphur and soot,
the era of hansoms and carts would soon pass,
the populace mostly traversed upon foot,
while cars were the realm of the privileged class.
Of headgear – like toppers and bowlers and boaters –
the age of King Edward the Seventh was known;
its corseted women aspired to be voters
and seeds of a world conflagration were sown.
This city of spectral, historical shades,
no matter its present, its past never fades.

I have to be consistent in my last month of judging in that I feel the mastery of a sonnet deserves a first place in the winner’s circle. This poet has been paying attention, as this is also about travel and nostalgia. I was happy to read "By Waterloo Station" as it has all the elements that make a poem (and given the added difficulty of fixed form) an outstanding first. A charming tidbit I read about Shakespeare years ago was that in his last folio of plays (meaning he was older and knew he was nearing the end of his career/life) he wrote 3 memorable plays Cymbeline, The Tempest and The Winter’s Tale but insisted on a happy ending. Like Prospero and perhaps Ariel, he wanted to end his career with romance, comedy and not tragedy or sorrow. In the same way, I wanted to end my stint as judging, this December, with some light. In this sonnet, we also smell the mist of the steam train, and somehow to me, it brings the tidings of the year’s end forward as inevitably (with a bit of a history lesson) we race towards the next decade. All while contemplating the past, on a bench by a "turbulent stream.” I am delighted by this poem. --Laurie Byro