'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!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Bad Language Offends

I went to an enjoyable poetry reading last Friday night. The guest reader, Patricia Irvine was excellent and the other poets all read well. It is exciting to see how much some of my poet friends are improving.

The venue was good, if a little cold (red wine helped with fixing that), the whole evening was well run and we were all intent on enjoying ourselves. The thing that has led to further discussion (on Facebook) though is mostly about one particular word. I don't think any of us would agree with banning any words, as long as they are used appropriately, but.. One of the thoughts that has been expressed is that we should be a little cautious about our words.

If the poem had been read in an appropriate place, we would never have hear the words, because in my opinion, the appropriate place for that particular poem was in a private place, with a private audience. Very private.

I've been thinking about the issue, and these are my words from the brief Facebook discussion:
But if you're using your words to create an effect, well, who are we, the audience, to lay (excuse the pun) any blame.
We don't have to like what we hear, but we all have the right up, to some unspoken point, to speak/read our poetry.

I know of one word that another poetry reading organiser has black-listed, and that is made reasonably clear to anyone who wants to know about it.

It's a tricky situation, and I feel good manners and discretion should be used in these situations. A reader should be aware of the audience and only read work that will not cause too much offense. Unless, I suppose, their wish is to cause offense.

Hmm, more thinking required on this one.


lifeinoleg said...

It seems like you and I both see bad language in poetry as a matter of context.

Whereas there is no problem with "bad" language being used for a purpose, it should not be used gratuitously for its own sake. To me, this is the same whether it is at a poetry reading or in a book.

Re: very private poems. It is a trend these days to hear and read poems that make one feel a bit awkward. It's strange to see a poet, who I have never before met, reveal things I probably only tell my closest friends. Poetry is a personal experience, but like bad language, it seems that there should be a certain etiquette to what is shared and what is not. Maybe that is audience-dependent, I'm not sure.

Carolyn said...

Thank you for your comment, I agree with you. the other night was uncomfortable for som eof the audience. I had heard this person before, and I knew she would be out to shock.

Sometimes we need to be uncomfortable. It got a few people thinking outside of their comfortable box. Not necessarily a bad thing. If there had been children present, I would be less OK with the language, but we were all adults that night.

Jonathan Shaw said...

Interesting question, Carolyn. At my book group the other night, someone read us a poem by Charles Bukowski which had a couple of words that would certainly offend in some contexts. He gave fair warning, and probably Bukowski's name was warning enough. Context matters, of course. I like your comment on FB about School Magazine. Not everyone has always been that discriminating.

I remember back in the early 70s at a Moratorium Poetry Reading one of the younger poets read a poem with a four letter word in it, not out to shock, but celebrating sexuality. Roland Robertson, Grand Old Jindyworobak, interrupted the reading, calling it filth. So it seems to be an enduring issue.

Anonymous said...

Can you provide a hint about the word we are talking about, particularly the one that has been blacklisted? It need only be the first letter and a few symbols...

There is one particular word that I don't really like hearing...over the years I have only heard it around three times in poetry - once by a male poet, and twice by female poets. As far as 'bad' language goes, it is probably the worst (or second worst) word I can think of.

There is another that annoys me in conversation but seems acceptable (in context) when used in poetry. Many a monologue might include this word as monologues emulate direct speech and many people speak this way.

One question might be: what makes language 'bad'?...and 'bad' according to whom?

It is good manners to tone down language when there are children in the audience...or a group of people who would obviously be offended. But it isn't always obvious who will take offence.


Anonymous said...

...as Jonathan mentions..a warning is always a good idea.

Carolyn said...

Anonymous, thanks for your comments. I won't go further into which particular word I'm talking about, but let's just agree that language is a dangerous thing at times.
One has to be careful, context, who's listening, social niceties, all are important.
Sometimes the only eason for the offensive language is bad manners and ignorance.