'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!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Life, the Universe and Everything poetry competition

Adelaide Plains Poetry Competition March 2010 - Speech

from the judge, Graeme Catt

Thank you to Carolyn Cordon for organising this competition, which gives writers of all backgrounds the potential to expose their work to a wider audience.

This year’s theme – ‘Life, the Universe and Everything’ – gave writers plenty of scope in terms of subject matter. Indeed, we received poems on just about every topic imaginable: nature, work, love, death – even haemorrhoids. (By the way, to the writer who entered that poem, hold it aside, because I think next year’s theme is Gastro-Intestinal Ailments.)

Many entrants even tackled the theme more literally and attempted philosophical pieces or poems that explored the nature of the universe.

Regardless of the subject matter, there are certain things I try to look for when judging any writing competition. Mainly, I am hoping to hear something I haven’t heard before – a startling image, a unique metaphor – a vision of the world that is fresh and perhaps unusual. I hope I have succeeded in my choices for this year’s winners.

It is customary (maybe even compulsory) to offer a couple of quotes at this stage of such a speech, so I have these two to offer. Both mirror the thinking I brought to the judging process:

Rita Dove suggests that ‘Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful.’

Salman Rushdie says that: ‘A poet’s work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep.’

Now there were numerous categories and, unfortunately, due to the small number of entries for some of these categories, I was unable to select a winning entry. These categories are poems by residents of the District Council of Mallala, and poems by Secondary School students.

In the Primary School category we received several dozen entries and, for me, the standout poem was ‘The Journey of the Murray’ by Laura Zdanowicz, who has bravely attempted a rhyming poem that remains fresh and appealing to the last line. (I believe we will be hearing Laura read her poem this afternoon.)

I have also offered Commendations to Isabella Somerville for ‘Playground Autism’ and Kelly Pocock for ‘The beach’.

The Open Category received over 70 entries, and it is hoped that the three winning entries meet the need for ‘mystery’, to ‘name the unnameable’.

But first some Commendations – these are all very good poems that didn’t quite make the final three. Firstly, I would like to commend Brenda Eldridge’s ‘River Of Light. I was also impressed with Gavin Austin’s ‘Adrift’. The third commended poem is ‘Everythings’ by Kevin Gillam.

Now to the winners - rather than attempt a dissection or interpretation of these poems, I will read a brief excerpt from each. Unfortunately, as the winning poets live interstate, they cannot read the poems themselves. I hope my readings do them justice.

Third Prize goes to John Egan for his poem ‘The Velvet Zero’. And the first stanza:

Beyond the desk lamp,

its green shade,

the multiple slash

of sharp venetians

and the shrouded night

that covers knots of trees

and walls of rough brick

with nothing,

the void –

the velvet zero


into space and time,

spinning into now.

Second Prize goes to Kevin Gillam for his poem ‘rebreving’. These are the opening two stanzas of the poem:

I have interest only in breathing,

in taking a cupped palm of unthoughts,

aerating them,

feeling them swarm then empty in

all hemispheres

an interest in rhythms of moons

and leaving, how the tides

create a gush of idea,

how grief is its own pond,

wind shirred, waiting

for reason

First Prize goes to a second John Egan poem, ‘The City and the Stars’. I’d like to read the second stanza of John’s poem.

Beyond the city a universe

of galaxies and stars, the black hole

of extinction, the stellar furnaces

of creation, heat and life –

electrons that dance a thin corolla

around the scrum of nucleus

and the flicker of photons

fired from stars that plunge

towards crescendos of nothing,

the vertigo of infinity

and the limits of the mind.

Congratulations to John Egan and Kevin Gillam for their winning entries in the Open Section, and Laura Zdanowicz for her winning poem in the Primary School category.

Thanks again to Carolyn Cordon for organising the competition, and to all the entrants who continue to make the competition a notable poetry event on the yearly writing calendar.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Poetry at the Pub - Prince Albert Hotel Gawler

Don't forget, poetry is back at the Prince Albert again on the last Sunday of the month - 28 March 2010, 2.00pm.

The usual crew will be there, and with extra excitement - we're announcing the winners of Adelaide Plains Poets inc. poetry competition. Winning entries will be read, the poetry judge will enlighten us re what he was looking for, there will be live music and there'll still be an open mic for everyone who puts their name in the book.

I can't wait to catch up with you all!