Under the gaze of magpies high in the pine trees, eleven poems took flight at the Julie Lewis Biennial Literary Award Ceremony for Poetry at the Peter Cowan Writers’ Centre at Joondalup. Last Sunday afternoon this gala day celebrated a diversity of poetry and built on the growing interest in poetry readings and performance events.
‘It was really special to hear all these fine poems read aloud,’ said Vivienne Glance, the 2011 Writer in Residence for the Peter Cowan Writers’ Centre. ‘There was a wide range of poetic styles and subject matter expertly read by the short-listed local poets and other poets like Scott-Patrick Mitchell, Penny Wood and Susan Stevens who read the interstate works. Along with hearing about the poets’ inspiration for their writing and the judge’s comments, it was a delightful way to present prize-winning poetry.’
The judge for this year’s competition was one of Australia’s most successful competition poets, Kevin Gillam. ‘The stronger of the 212 poems entered into the competition’ said Kevin ,’ exhibited avoidance of cliché, employment of fresh and invigorating language, careful editing, effective enjambment, attention to form and structure and inventive choice of subject matter.’.
First prize was awarded to Roland Leach from Cottesloe, Perth, for ‘My Great Aunt’ which is loosely based on his grandmother who cruised the world when it was unfashionable for women to be so free. The reference to Alfred Wallace, the great naturalist, is a result of Roland’s interest in him and Charles Darwin, but is fictitious. He thinks. Kevin observed that, ‘This is a relatively small poem (15 lines), but a wonderfully succinct, evocative and well edited piece of writing. The choice of diction, repetition and surprising turns of phrase give this poem its edge. I was particularly attracted to the poem’s economy of language yet it’s beautiful and elegant affirmation of life and living. To quote:’
… My great aunt was always looking.
She was a good looker. Took a steamer out of
Liverpool for the islands of the East, imagining
them still as spice islands. Took men of all creed and colour.
Second place was awarded to Rob Walker from Cherry Gardens in Adelaide, for ‘Clearing the Caravan Park’. A few years back one of the caravan parks in a beautiful creek setting near where he worked was sold for development. Over many months Rob watched the residents move out, the site fenced and bulldozed in preparation for its new life as an up-market lifestyle village. The new developers retained the biggest River Red gums and the redeveloped site is still quite beautiful. But it still left a kind of melancholy in him at the way some things are lost whenever there’s change. It’s this feeling of sadness he hoped to capture, beyond a description of the physical. Kevin commented ‘This is a poem that displays photo-like images and imaginative lining, coupled with a real clarity of language and concise use of form. The poetic voice is both honest and direct. And the choice of subject matter is particularly engaging.
A quote from the middle section:’
small squares of concrete aprons
pads for a cabin or footsteps
to keep mud out of the van.
every small concrete square
a demarcation of one
Third place was awarded to Oliver Driscoll from Abbotsford, Melbourne, for ‘Villefranche de Conflent’. The quoted material threaded throughout the poem, discussing among other things the dangers of flying across the Pyrenees in a time of primitive aeroplanes, is intended to suggest danger in the protagonist’s own story of walking through the snow. Thus, two vastly different dangerous experiences are brought together—one elaborate, flying between France and Spain in the 1930s, and one very simple, walking, ill-prepared for the weather, in the Pyrenees in more contemporary times. Kevin says that, ‘this is an elegantly worked poem with succinct use of form. The use of language, the flow, the lining, all work impeccably. This is a poem with clear purpose and narrative structure. A quote…’
‘We took ships on trial spins, made meek with little hops
between Toulouse and Perpignan
and had dreary lessons in meteorology in a freezing hangar.’
His boyish limbs, no newer than snow, crunched then patted.
Highly Commended awards went to Roland Leach for ‘Perth’, Mikaela Castledine, of Kalamunda, Perth, for ‘Custody’, Chris Konrad of Glen Forest, Perth, for ‘Keep the Candle Burning’, and Amanda Anastasi from Derrimut, Melbourne, for ‘First Boats’.
Commended Awards went to Karen Atkinson of Denmark for ‘The Same old Song’, Kate Case from Victoria Point, South of Brisbane for ‘Hospital Sojourn – Odious Room 1024’, Jan Price of Ballarat, Victoria, for ‘Train’ and Edward Reilly of Geelong, Victoria for ‘Blossoms’.
Peter Cowan Writers Centre
(Rob talking again now) Congrats to all place-getters too!