Saturday, February 28, 2009

Judge's speech "Tracks and Trails" poetry competition

Thank you to Carolyn Cordon who organised and coordinated this Poetry Competition.
What a great opportunity she has provided for people young and old to have their creative
work recognised.

What is poetry?
Mike Ladd, the South Australian poet and presenter of Poetica on Radio National, says that the main distinguishing feature of poetry is that it has short lines.

Of course, those of us who love to read and write poetry would all agree with this and, at the same time, know that poetry has other important distinguishing qualities or features. Indeed, poetry can be a kind of ʻword magicʼ(Tunica 2005). It has the capacity to:
surprise
provoke and
astonish us

to:
make us laugh
make us cry or
cause a chill to run down our spines

Other distinguishing qualities of poetry are:
* a distillation of words and/or images which give us a unique insight into a situation.
* an unexpected and original combination of words which demand the readerʼs attention.
* subtlety and nuance in relation to the topic of the poem.

To quote from Eleanor Farjeon, a poet and a writer from the nineteenth century:
Not the fly, but the gleam of the fly
Not the sea, but the sound of the sea
Not myself, but what makes me
See, hear and feel something that prose
Cannot: and what that is, who knows?
1
(Farjeon, E. quoted in Tunica, M., (2005) A passion for poetry)

As a poet and a writer, I understand the work that goes into any poem or piece of writing
and also the effort that is involved in entering any competition.

So, before I talk about the criteria I used and announce the winners I would like to
congratulate everyone for their efforts and for throwing their poems into the ring - to use a
bit of a mixed metaphor.

However, as the judge of this years Plains Poetry Competition therefore I was looking for
poems with the following characteristics:
an element of surprise
short lines
distilled images
subtlety and nuance
Poems that showed me something from a different angle; showed me something familiar but in an original way and, most importantly, still remained accessible to me as the reader.

These are the poems that I feel best achieved those criteria:

I chose the poem Ant Tracks as the best poem from the District Council of Mallala and Tracks and Trails as the best from the Wakefield Regional Council.

In the Primary School entry I chose Tracks and Trails.
This poem was short and sweet; elegant and amusing at the same time.
I liked its juxtaposition of poetic and spoken language. For example:
ʻTracks guide us back to a river
that flows slowly past our camp.ʼ
Then (surprising the reader)
ʻCould you flies leave us alone?ʼ

I was not able to choose a Secondary School winner.
None of the entries met my criteria.

I have, however, awarded a Special Mention to the ballad,The Women Walkers of
Hahndorf for the poetʼs attempt to write in the voice of a young nineteenth century farm woman and for bringing to life a little-known facet of womenʼs history; i.e. the farming women who set off early in the mornings and trudged the many miles carrying their produce to market.

I awarded Commended to The Murray Street Schamozzle for its humour and the way it
recalled the irreverent bush poetry of the past - particularly that published by The Gawler Bunyip.

And now I come to the winners of the 3rd, 2nd and 1st prizes

3rd Prize goes to Stuartʼs party reaches the gulf. In this poem the writer also attempts to use another voice, that of John McDouall Stuart, the Scottish explorer. In this poem, the writer quite effectively, I believe, captures the feelings of desperation which must accompany such a trek. The poem also conveys the question of ʻsuccess but at what cost?ʼ

2nd Prize goes to Train Strike. This poem provided an original take on an ordinary topic. I particularly liked the metaphors that the writer used; such as ʻa brown balloon of rush hour smogʼ and ʻdefeated briefcases pit the sweep of railway stepsʼ.

Finally, 1st prize goes to the poem Millipedes.
I particularly liked this poem for its simplicity, its personal nature and yet, at the same time, the way the poet drew on a universal emotion: grief at the breakdown of a marriage; of a relationship.
The concept of an invasion of millipedes, their toxic trails, the question marks they
inscribed on the walls of the house, the ʻsuturesʼ which cannot mend the relationship all serve as a metaphor, an image of a relationship fraying and of the narratorʼs grief and loss. The poem was also well-crafted - 3 stanzas, with eight short lines in each. The ending was clear and there was pathos without sentiment.

Well done to everyone.
Helen Lindstrom

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