Highly Commended: Claudine Toutoungi, 'The marmots are suffocating'

Highly Commended: Claudine Toutoungi,

‘The marmots are suffocating’

Claudine Toutoungi’s poem ‘The marmots are suffocating’ has been Highly Commended in the 2020 Newcastle Poetry Competition.


The marmots are suffocating


J’admire votre hérisson

you tell the woman in the artisanal cake shop

because it isn’t every day you see a chocolate-sculpted



and in the forest glade

upon discovering that all wild bees

are welcome at the bee hotel you ask the hive

and what about les abeilles domestiques?


the hive makes no reply


likewise the mountains

—textbook blanket








filling the void with topic after random chitchat topic: le kilomètre vertical, the recipe for tartiflette, the conjunction of the sirocco and foehn that blew a little bird straight through the restaurant, the cat Macaroon (perdu ou volé) and the writing on the wall in the tunnel under the bridge:

ici les marmottes suffoquent


Claudine Toutoungi’s poetry is widely published in publications including Poetry, PN Review, The Guardian, The New Statesman and her plays for radio and stage include Slipping, Deliverers and The Inheritors. Her first poetry collection, Smoothie, is published by Carcanet, while her second, Two Tongues, also from Carcanet, is forthcoming in 2020.