'Freedom' competition Judge's Report


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.


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!


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!


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


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!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Gawler Poetry @ the Pub April 2012

It's all happening again tomorrow, 29 April at the Prince Albert Hotel in Gawler. Poetry Readings, done in a pub, but with the rowdy drinkers kept apart from the reading and listening - it's all about the words!

There's a raffle too, and a guest reader, Mike Hopkins this time because we enjoyed his poetry so much when he read for a few minutes last month! Mike's been writing a new poem every day this month, so he's got plenty of new material to choose from, as well as some fine 'older' poems. I don't know what Mike's going to be reading tomorrow, but I know I'll enjoy being there as he reads it.

The poetry readings are open to all, with only a couple of restrictions on the kind of material, the sorts of restrictions you'd expect regarding fairness  - no sexism, racism, pornography. 

So if you want to try out your words, come along to Gawler - the train goes all the way from Adelaide again now, so you can try out your words on the train on the way if you want to (and if you're brave enough!).

There's a gold coin donation required if you want to read your work, free if you just come along to sip and listen!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Wondering about loss ...

I learned today on Facebook about the death of an Adelaide poet, Stephen Lawrence. I didn't really know Stephen, or his poetry, but it feels like I've lost a friend.

The poetry scene in Adelaide and surrounds is like that, it seems. I feel very close to all of the people, the names, the ones I meet regularly and the ones I only meet in passing. I offer my condolences to Stephen's family and friends.

I hope no more of my friends go soon. I need you to all stay here, happy and well.

Losing a friend I never had the chance to get to know hurts, but I know it must hurt so much more for those who truly knew and loved him. Take care everyone, and please keep safe.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Creative Writing, Healing Your Head

Creative writing is used by many others as a way to find a path to healing. I've certainly found a happy place with creative writing, non-fiction, short stories and poetry. I have some of my 'healing' stuff published, and some of it is here on my computer, not out there in the other world.

What my ideal job is going to be, eventually, is to run creative writing workshops for people who are struggling to find peace from the struggles happening inside their heads. Our inner critic is usually our harshest critic. Our critic in our head know just how to hit us when we're down, more that any other critic can.

If you have problems with you inner critic hassling you, one solution can be to free write, just let the words spill out, and refuse to edit a single thing. This free writing can lead to solutions to problems you barely knew were there. I truly believe this kind of thing can be healing. I'm not the only person who has been helped in this way. Narrative therapy is a particular form of therapy that is widely accepted as being a useful way to work with people suffering in their lives.

This is an interesting way of helping people to move beyond the accepted reasons for their problems, and looking at their story in a far broader way. This can bring ideas and ways of helping that have never been considered before. Narrative therapy can lead to the inner core of a person's problems so that the true reasons and ways of helping can emerge.

I'm not a trained therapist though, and don't feel doing this kind of thing is where I want to go. For my own story/problems, I wrote fictionalised versions of what I was dealing with. In this way, I was able to look at things through a variety of points of view. This led to a better understanding of my true role in what had happened and was still happening to me.

This helped my to stop being angry at myself for things I now understand  were not 'my own fault'. Children tend to think everything that happens is because of them. This can be uplifting, if the things happening are good things. But if there are bad things happening, a child can be crushed down, thinking they're to blame for the terrible things going on.

Such things as sexual abuse, divorce of parents, people getting hurt and others can stay with the child into adulthood and beyond. This can be an awful burden for a person, and many never even know why their life is such a sad thing.

I was able to get over the anger toward myself with short stories, and moved on, with poetry, to exploring various ideas on how my life could be made better. I have written about the good things an ongoing illness has brought to me. I have written poetry about my own abuse as a child, looking at how it has affected others too, so I now realise I'm not alone, not suffering all by myself.

Beyond that, I've written all of this down, collated it and put it into a poetry collection. This collection was the things that helped me to finally feel 'healed'. I explored my 'victim' status, and moved onto 'survivor' status. I am healed and I am whole. This feeling is the one I'd love to help others to feel.

If you're interested in this idea, I am happy to discuss it further with you. In the meantime, you may be interested in the blog I put together when I launched my poetry collection, here. Take a look, and tell me what you think!