'Freedom' competition Judge's Report

JUDGE’S REPORT FOR 2017 ADELAIDE PLAINS POETRY COMPETITION – THEME: FREEDOM

By Jude Aquilina

I felt privileged to be the judge for a competition with such an important and inspiring theme as FREEDOM. Thank you to all the poets who entered – you reminded me of the many different forms that freedom can take. These included: freedom from war; freedom of speech and thought; freedom in retirement and through travel; through bushwalking and horse riding; freedom from a refugee’s point of view; freedom in nature; freedom from abuse, racism and ageism; freedom through religion and freedom through zen; freedom in self-sufficiency and going off the grid; even freedom in death from suffering and freedom to reunite with loved ones in the afterlife. Congratulations to the competition organisers for choosing such a wide-ranging and thought-provoking theme.

The quality of the poetry was extremely high, in every section, making my job as judge difficult. Many more poems than I can mention deserve praise. And I was especially thrilled to read so many amazing poems by school students. I know the future of poetry is in good hands.

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In the Primary School Section I chose four poems to Commend:

· Feeling Free (1) Lorena Burford - Horizon Christian School

· Freedom (18) Amelie Kowald – Domino Servite College

· Camping Moment (3) Sophie Manuel - Horizon Christian School

· Waking up on Saturday (8) Benjamin Trinkle – Domino Servite College

And I chose the poem The Freedom to Read (17) to Highly Commend Kezia Ziegelmann – Domino Servite College

For Third Prize, I chose a poem titled Charlotte and her eggs (6) Alexandra Hill – Tea Tree Gully Primary School – a clever and unusual poem, with rich poetic language and apt use of the senses.

For Second Prize, I chose the poem titled Freedom in Science (14) Wesley Trinkle – Domino Servite College – this enthusiastic account of the freedom, wonder and creativity in science, had me thinking and kept me smiling. This young poet has captured the thrill and passion in engaging in creative thoughts and experiments.

First Prize goes to a poem titled Freedom for me (16) Brandon George – Domino Servite College - a beautiful and vivid poem about finding freedom in the Australian countryside, when, I quote, ‘the evening shines like brass’. With images like this, I was transported me to another place. Congratulations to a poet with a talent for painting word-scapes!

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In the Secondary School Section I chose three poems to Commend:

· The Beautiful Word (25) Amal TlaaOur Lady of the Sacred Heart College

· What is it? (28) Olivia Hayes – Domino Servite College

· I wanted to fly in the beautiful sky (12) Jasit Kaur – Domino Servite College

And I Highly Commended three poems:

· What happened to our acceptance? (6) Chloe Wightman – Domino Servite College

· Freedom is a funny word, isn’t it? (5) Jesse Blakers – Hawker College

· Why would you wear something so inappropriate (4) Freya Cox - The Friends School

For Third Prize in the Secondary School Section, I chose a poem titled Freedom Lies in Being Bold (8) – Aimy Tran - Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College - a mature, intelligent poem that is a reminder of what women have achieved, and what is yet to be achieved in regards to equality. This is a bold and thought-provoking poem.

I chose, for Second Prize a poem titled A white blanket laid over Syria (13) – Rabjot Kaur - Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College The poem relates vivid images of human suffering and gives the war in Syria a human face. This is a memorable, emotive poem that does not shy away from truth; an important narrative that needs to be written and read.

First Prize is awarded to a vivid lyrical poem simply titled Freedom (2) – Maya Chromik – Horizon Christian School. This poetic list of images captures the sense of freedom that we, here in Australia, are fortunate to enjoy free of charge, like, I quote ‘collecting stars at night’ and ‘finding dirt roads that lead to the unknown. This clever poet has put together a collage of positive experiences to capture the theme of Freedom in a clever and resonating way. Congratulations!

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In the Open Section, there were many great poems that addressed the theme of Freedom in quirky ways like the three poems I award Commendations:

· The Cost of Zen (55) Helen Thurloe

· a peregrine falcon (86) Claire Albrecht

· Child of My Heart 928) Shelley Hansen

And I Highly Commended four outstanding poems:

· 1976 (no number) Stephen Smithyman

· Strawberries and Poppies (25) Donna Edwards

· Advance Australia - Fair (29) Chris Richardson

· Moon meeting (62) Nina Scott-Bohanna

Third Prize in the Open Section goes to a poem titled Free at Last (80) Tom McIlveen that takes the reader back to early Australian convict history. Rhyme, rhythm and meter are employed to effect; with this style suiting the era. I also enjoyed the authentic voice and dark humour.

I awarded Second Prize to a poem titled Transitions (84) Kerry Harte an ironic poem with moments of dark humour. The poem is about reading a shiny brochure for a nursing home, in which, I quote, are ‘The faces of the people … bright and bubbly as champagne’. I like this poet’s unfaltering tone and apt imagery.

First Prize goes to a poem titled, Freedom wakes me in the morning (69) Rhonda Cotsell It was a joy to read this intelligent, compassionate take on the theme. The poet focusses on the small things that mean freedom but also encompasses the big picture. This poet has captured the intangible, the essence of what freedom is and what it means. Congratulations to this brilliant poet. May freedom continue to wake you in the morning.

Thank you, Carolyn and the Adelaide Plains Poets for this enlightening experience.

Jude Aquilina

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As the President of Adelaide Plains Poets, I thank the judge and of course all of the entrants in this competition, where we received well around 130 poems from around Australia, based on our broad topic of Freedom. As the Competition Secretary I say thank you to all of the lovely poets who sent their work to me and kept me entertained as I read the poems as that came to me in the mail, or by hand. And of course thank you to the teachers involved, keeping love of language alive in the young people they work with every day at their work!

Monday, October 31, 2011

a First Draft says it's not quite ready to come out yet

Yesterday I wrote the first draft of the poem I spoke of the day before yesterday. The poem came easily enough once I had a quiet time to begin writing. It felt good to get the words down. The problem is, I'm not quite ready for it yet, and it's not ready for being released to the public yet.

These things happen sometimes. I think the fact the poem is about something so personal, that also relates to other people I love, means I have to be more careful with my words than usual. Getting this wrong feels like it could hurt other people, and maybe hurt me too.

So, it may happen soon, or it might only be a thing between me and the words of the poem. Whatever happens, the writing of this poem feels like it's helping me.

Writing about a loved one who is now dead seems like a normal part of my grieving process. I wrote a sonnet that I read at my father's funeral a year ago. The sonnet helped me say what I wanted to say, and I was glad to be able to give a copy of it to my mother.

The poem I'm working on now is not in any formal poetic style, but it still conveys much of what I'm feeling inside about my father. It's all a little difficult because the Dad I knew and loved has been gone for much longer than the year since his body died. Dementia took Dad away slowly but with a cruel steadiness. His mind slowly left us and we struggled to find hints he was still there.

I'm afraid to say I had difficulty in seeing Dad in the vacant face that looked unseeingly at me when I visited. He was gone, and I could only wish it wasn't so. I hope this never happens to me, or to anyone else I know and love. Dementia would have to be one of the cruellest things there is.

Writing these words is a conversation happening in my mind, and on the page. I do some of my best thinking when my mind is in charge of my fingers, keying in the words. If I didn't do this, I don't think I could stay OK.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

When the poem calls, but you're not sure you're up to the task

Yesterday I met with my mother and Greg, my younger brother, to deal with my father's ashes. Dad died a year ago tonight, and the time had come to do the task.

My father was a successful harness racing trainer for much of his life. He had his funeral service at Globe Derby Park, which is the major harness racing facility in South Australia. Dad had many successful races there during his training career.

Globe Derby Park is also the place where the ashes of my older brother, Jeff, were placed. Jeff was Dad's reinsman, driving the horses to many wins. Jeff died at the age of 33, nearly 18 years ago.

So I drove to Mum's place, and along the road I kept seeing metaphors. Crows, and the bodies of dead birds in particular, were a recurring theme for the initial part of my journey. While I was driving, I was thinking about the poem I would write in honour of the event. The scattering of ashes is a powerful thing, full of thoughts and images and feelings.

Once I arrived at Mum's place, we found out where Greg was and met with him at the track. We took the ashes to the finish line and Greg released the ashes. There was a breeze to assist and I felt a deep sense of rightness as I saw the ashes leave the urn.

Once Greg had nearly emptied the urn, he gave it to Mum. We all walked over to Jeff's memorial stone and stayed with Mum as she released the last of Dad's ashes. They were laid to rest next to the stone, amidst the rose bushes there. It was easy to imagine Dad and Jeff finally able to get together again to talk about horses, as they often did when living.

The rest of yesterday was taken up with poetry, the Poetry Readings at the Pub in Gawler. I'm on the committee that runs this event, which happens once a month. I continued thinking about the poem I had to write, but wasn't able to write it. I had a strange happy/sad afternoon. I was tied up with the goings on, but also tied to what I'd done in the morning. I felt good taking my part in the proceedings, so wasn't resentful at not having the chance to pen my memorial to Dad. I felt I could easily do it when the time was right.

Now though, I'm sitting at home with not much to do, and I still haven't written down any words. I feel almost afraid to start, in case I mess it up. There are several things I've said I'll do today, and they are affecting me in some way and the words don't feel ready to come yet. I can still feel them though, sitting within and warming me with their love.

This is a thing that I want to do, and I need to do. This is a thing I will do.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A poem snuck up on me

The poem I'm going to post here crept up to me today, and said, 'come on, write me down or type me up, tinker with me, but not for long, then come on, post me, I wanna be on the internet'.

I make no claim to greatness for this poem, I'm simply putting it here because that's the way the poem wanted it. I'm not the poem, though some of me is in the poem. I'm simply the one who hits the keys and claims the copyright.

So here's the poem, perhaps insufficiently edited, perhaps perfect, but most probably somewhere in between the two.


Kitchen as metaphor

In my kitchen are signs aplenty
I am lazy/slothful, coffee-drinking
I eat both junk and healthy stuff
Neither insects nor dirt frighten me
I recycle, reuse and waste
I don’t mindlessly scrub, rub, dub dub dub

Your kitchen may be
quite different.
You are not me.



Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Writers need to get out sometimes!

Pounding your keyboard is all very well, but sometimes a writer needs to get out and connect with the real world. Yesterday I did just that.

A new friend and I got together for a coffee and chat at a local venue. The main part of the morning wasn't about the culinary experience. The coffee and raisin toast I had were good enough, and a good price. That wasn't what it was all about.

The morning was all about friendship, sharing, writing and creativity. My new friend met at a workshop at the SA Writers Centre and connected again by phone last weekend. We decided to catch up, and so that's what we did.

I felt energised when I was talking and looking at some artwork my friend brought along. She is currently visiting this venue in the morning as often as she can. She brings her drawing bits and pieces and is creating illustrations for picture book texts she has written.

The work she showed me was charming and gentle, ideally suited to children's tastes. I hope to meet up with this friend again soon, and continue this friendship. It feels like a great thing to do, both for me socially and for my writing.

Friends are valuable things to have.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My Own Crow Poem

A dear poet friend of mine has written a post on  his own blog. In it he posted a poem about a crow and on his Facebook page he said that every poet worth his or her salt has written a crow poem. click here to read John's Crow Poem


That started me thinking - have I written a crow poem? I thought I had, but decided to write a new one anyway. So here is my crow poem, untitled so far. 


I welcome comments on the poem, and also ideas for a possible title.



Crow’s mournful cry goes out across the paddock
sheep and wheat ignore the sound
and continue doing what they always do.
I pause and look up, and spot the crow,
alone, alone, alone. Then comes an answering cry -
another crow’s  plaintive call rings out -
first crow no longer alone, they strike up a lament
in tandem. I’m  reminded of my family inside,
waiting for me to return. There’s no need
for me to call out, they’re there for me,
they’re always there for me.