Granddad wins poetry prize posthumously

GWYNETH HYNDMAN
Last updated 05:00 21/11/2012
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Hailee Forde and her late grandfather, Edgar Esler, before his death in July.

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The late Edgar "Eddie" Esler considered himself an electrician and a radio enthusiast, not a poet, his family says.

However, the Invercargill man, who died four months ago, has won first prize in an English war poetry competition. posthumously, after his granddaughter Hailee Forde, submitted a handwritten poem he had kept buried in a desk drawer for 70 years.

Ms Forde said she sent the poem titled The Soldier - which had eventually been wedged into her grandmother's recipe book for years - to the Pendle War Poetry Competition in Nelson, England, after Mr Esler died on July 28, at age 86.

It was the only one her grandfather was known to have written.

He had always waved off suggestions of having it sent off to competitions.

But his granddaughter did not agree.

"I think it is a beautiful poem and I am proud of it . . . I think it is worthy of being published."

Ms Forde said she entered the poem but did not know it had won the "best overseas" category until she posted it on her Facebook page. A friend in England commented it was a war poem that was circulating in the newspapers.

Ms Forde said knowing it had done so well had been healing for a family that was still grieving.

"I was very happy and excited when the poem won, as we have a lot of heartbroken family members that really miss him and I knew that it would make everyone in our family very proud and happy . . ."

Mr Esler's daughter, Jan Forde, said her father would have been "over the moon" to know the poem had been finally recognised.

He spent many lunch hours at Age Concern in Invercargill, and he would have been pleased to have the poem seen by his mates there, she said.

Mr Esler never went to war - World War II finished just before he was old enough to enlist - but he used to listen to the radio.

Mrs Forde believed that was where he got his inspiration to write the poem at the age of 16.

Now living in Australia, Ms Forde said it felt great to do something to keep his memory alive.

"He was a fantastic grandfather and he will never be far from our minds."

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