'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!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Aiming at something like William Carlos Williams

Yesterday I wrote another poem about my car crash from last week. The previous poem is quite different in style to this more recent poem.

I was aiming at capturing just one important thing, and was thinking as I wrote and edited it, about the spare and clever work of the much loved American poet William Carlos Williams.

If you don't know his work, and you like or love poetry, or even if you hate poetry, I recommend you click on his name and learn about him. I love his work.

So here is my little poem:

away from me

my clearest image
from the accident
is what I saw
as my car
hit the safety fence
the first time –
ten or more cars
on the other side
of the road
rushing northward
away from me 
as fast as they could go

Did I capture the feel I was aiming at? I think so. I have no idea if this poem works for anyone else, but when I read it, I can see those cars again. The cars that would have crashed into me and possibly killed me if the safety fence wasn't there.

Please, please, please leave a comment here, I have a strong need to know how this poem touches or fails to touch others.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Creative Writing is my Personal Healing

I had a car accident last week, on Monday. Something went wrong, I lost the steering in my car and I crashed. The car was the first car I've ever owned myself, all the other cars have been in my husband, Graham's, name.

When my car came to a halt, I realised I was pretty well completely unhurt. I thought about what to do, but a wonderful lady arrived to help me. She took charge of it all, and invited me to sit in her car while I waited for various emergency people and my husband to arrive.

I looked at my car and was sad. It looked far sicker than I was. It seemed strange that my car could be that damaged, but I was fine. I thank the people who make things safer for us all. If it weren't for the safety fence, my seatbelt and safety features in the car, the result would have been tragic rather that merely sad.

Anyway, I thought about all of this, and I dealt with the sadness in my usual way, I wrote a poem about it. Creative writing is my way of getting my head around things. Writing the words down, editing them, playing with them and then sharing them helps me to understand my life, myself and the world.

I truly believe that creative writing has healed me, getting me over my grief at losing my car (it was written off by my insurance company). Creative writing has also helped me to deal with the various issues I have had in my life.

I feel that creative writing is a fine tool for a person to have to help them get through the challenges they have in life. It is a thing I wish to assist people with. That is what I wish to spend the rest of my life doing - assisting people to write their way to a better life.

Anyway, here is the poem I wrote about my car accident. I hope you find something in my words.

It could have been traumatic

Control lost, spin around, crash and spin some more.
Safety found, deep breath and look around.
Help approaches, mobile in hand, she calls for uniformed
help. She saw it all, soothes me, comforts me, a quiet heroine
‘It’s wasn’t your fault’ she says, ‘not your fault at all’
Two more people arrive, soothing, helping, bits of my car
taken off the road. She tells the cop the same
when he flashes up, and starts asking questions,
‘Not her fault,’ she repeats. Mission accomplished,
the helpers all leave, taking with them a new story to tell.
I sit in the cop’s car and he tests me, questions me,
soothes me too, we chat while we wait. ’Not your fault,’
he says. Graham arrives, tow truck arrives,
cop leaves, we leave, returning home,
where life is in control, no spin at all.
I feel soothed not traumatised.

Carolyn Cordon 2011

If this poem says anything to you, please feel free to leave a comment here, thank you.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Final Farewell to Dad

I've written two blogs about the poem I'm going to post here. The poem was written about a ceremony my younger brother, our mother and I performed on Sunday morning just gone.

The time had come to scatter my father's ashes. Murray West was my father's name. He was a horse trainer before he died, a well known and much liked one before he became ill. He died a year ago, and Sunday was just after his birthday and the one year anniversary of his death. I met with my mum on the day and we caught up with me brother Greg at the back track at Globe Derby Park, the main harness racing track in South Australia.

The plan was to scatter Dad's ashes at the finish line on the main track. My older brother Jeff, who died nearly 18 years ago has his memorial stone at the finish line in the rose garden just across from the finish line. Jeff had been my father's horse driver, driving many horses to victory.

So we gathered together and did the deed. I knew I was going to write a poem in honour of this occasion, and I was thinking about the theme of my weekly writing group. The theme was 'Recovery'.

I was busy for the rest of the day, but my subconscious kept turning over what we'd done, and the writing theme. I began writing the poem on Tuesday, I had a first draft. I wasn't ready to let anyone else see the poem at that stage.

Then I decided I would work on it some more on Thursday, after I had written a totally different poem with the theme of 'Recovery'. That poem came to me yesterday morning as I was lying in bed and enjoying the feeling of  being safe there. So I got up, fixed breakfast and wrote my 'Recovery' poem. I read my 'Recovery' poem last night, and everyone liked it. I liked it too, and was satisfied I had hit the theme well. The group shared some deep and meaningful words last night, a handful of fine poems indeed.

Then I opened up my poem I'd written for Dad, and worked on a second draft, tinkering with lines and words. I was happy with that poem, it felt good to me, and I knew I had to share it with my mother, who I go and visit most Fridays. This morning I polished up the  poem, and I was finally happy that it said the things I needed to say. I went and saw Mum and gave her the poem to read and to keep.

I watched Mum as she read, seeing her face as she reacted to the words. She finished reading, and I asked if she was OK with me putting the poem 'out there' for other people to read. I felt I had to ask her permission first, it wouldn't have been fair to her otherwise. She said she was OK with that.

So that's the story behind this poem. It's a story of poetry, grief, harness racing, family and caring for loved ones. It's a story I give to the world. So here is that poem.

The final race

Crow’s mournful cry heralds the beginning
of my journey. The road I travel is a slaughterhouse
in grey - avian corpses sad prey to car’s
supremacy. These thoughts travel with me
to Dad’s memorial destination. Contact made,
we three, his spouse and his offspring, approach
the place, ashes in hand, plan decided –
finish line a suitable place. The youngest
does the deed, releasing the final remains
of our father, my mother’s spouse. Breeze aids
the scattering, and I remember other times, times
when the finish line brought us joy, and I finally
feel a kind of joyful serenity. Remaining ash
is spread near our dead brother’s place, their
oldest son, and we can all imagine Jeff and Dad,
communing and celebrating former times –
horses, races and glorious wins. We shared
these things as a family, now we can remember
it again and embrace a final peace.