'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!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Best Place to Write a Poem

What cheek you may be thinking, what makes me think I am qualified to answer this question? Some days I have to agree with you - on dark and grey days it is hard to remember I have written poems and had them published for payment.

But I have had poems published, not once, but far more often than that. Even so, I would never presume to say - "This is the only way to write a poem!"

I know different people write fantastic poems in ways that differ widely. Some must do their first draft on paper, with a particular pen. Others say they can only write creatively on their computer. Personally, I have done both, successfully or not, many times.

Some people can only write poetry if they are in a particular room, some must be at a particular place, while others seem to be able to write well no matter where they are or what sort of disaster is going on around them.

If you only write at a certain place, and won't try anywhere else, to you have a good reason for that? Have you tried to write somewhere else and failed? If that is the case, it is still worthwhile trying other times and places. It may be the time you failed just wouldn't have worked no matter what, and if you refuse to try somewhere else, you are making life hard for yourself.

Give somewhere else a go, but make sure it is a pleasant place, so that even if the writing doesn't work it's not a complete loss. I have had fun writing at my local hotel, with amazingly good and terrible awful results. It doesn't matter, I had fun no matter what!

Different poems can sometimes call for different methods. If you always write your pithy short poems on modern life sitting at your dining table at night, maybe you could explore something different, somewhere else. Perhaps give haiku a go, sitting at a public park.

It is worth a try, anything and everything is worth a try, if writing poetry is your thing.

The best place is to write a poem is the place that works for you now, which may be quite different from what and where works next time.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What is Poetry?

It has to rhyme, I hate it, teachers put me off it at school, It's too hard to write. I've been told all of these things by people when I've discussed poetry. I feel so sad for the people who hate poetry and were put off it at school.

I have written an article about that here. I really believe teachers who don't at least like, if not love, a subject shouldn't be allowed to teach that subject to students.

Poetry does not have to rhyme, although rhyming is an important part of the ballad style that most people thing of when you mention poetry. Bush ballads certainly must rhyme, and must also adhere to strict rules, which can put more free-spirited people off.

But it is not mandatory that poetry does rhyme. There have been many fine poems written in the free verse style that don't rhyme. There is usually some sense of rhythm though, and maybe 'slant' rhymes, that is words that almost but not quite rhyme.

Alliteration and assonance my also be there, and many other things that can bring a collection of words together in a manner pleasing to the ear and mind. Poetic forms such as haiku certainly don't rhyme, but have their own charm when done well.

Give poetry a go - there is a lot of contemporary out there, on a huge range of subjects. There are also lots of opportunities to go out to poetry readings/poetry slams, and hear contemporary read/performed.

Even if you don't think you like poetry, why not give it another go, you might surprise yourself.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Quantity first, then Quality

Well, my Personal Poetry Month has ended. I gave myself the task of writing a new poem every day in April, and it is now May.

I didn't manage a new poem every day as such, but on some days I managed more than one poem, so the overall total is more than thirty poems, so I am very pleased with myself. I definitely managed to get the quantity done.

But what of the quality? Well, I wasn't aiming to get thirty fully polished and publishable poems every day. I was just trying to up my written matter to work on. The hard work starts now, I suppose.

But I've had a bit of a look at what I have written in April, and I am surprised at the quality of some of the poems there in my notebook, and on my computer. Some of the poems have had a little going over to sharpen them up, some of them came out already sharp, and some of them need lots of work if they are ever going to be anything.

But overall, I can recommend this method to anyone who is able to devote half an hour every day to pen a poem. Even if, or maybe especially if, you only write poetry every now and then, give it a try. Worst case scenario? You have thirty poems you don't like much. But I think doing this exercise can bring you closer to your poetry, and focus you more on the idea of working on your writing.

If you seriously care about improving your poetry, getting this many poems to work on is a huge help. With thirty poems, you don't feel so protective of them and you become more at ease with editing properly.

Give it a try, you'll be pleased you did!