'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, July 23, 2012

On Finding a New Poem to Love

I've always loved the American poet Robert Frost, based almost entirely on his poem 'Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening'. There's something about that poem that calls to me, the rhyming scheme is there, but even though the poem's loaded with rhyming, it doesn't intrude.

I love the fact that the rhymes are never the most obvious word, the word seems to have been carefully chosen as just the correct word for what Frost wanted to say, and he didn't ever go for cliche.

I was raised on the rhymes of Banjo Paterson, another clever rhyming poet, and I wonder now, was it merely coincidence that Frost died at a time I was not quite born yet, but was growing into a baby to be born a couple of months after Frost's death...

This fact, coupled with Banjo's ballads often as an after dinner snack, made me alert to what a fine rhyme can and should be, and hostile to poor and obvious rhyming that brings no sense of rhythm. Rhythm surely must be there with the rhyme, or the poetry is lost and becomes a weaker squawking that has no music to it.

My poetry now follows many forms, sometimes I rhyme, sometimes not, but I try to always have a sense of rhythm in my verse. Anyway, these are a few thoughts on Robert Frost and poetry and rhyming. 

I've just realised this entire blog post doesn't talk of the thing that prompted it in the first place. The new poem I found this morning was a poem of Robert Frost's 'A Considerable Speck'. I found this somewhere on the internet, can't remember how, now, but it struck me as a gorgeous whimsical little thing, that should be considered further, and shared with those who could come to love it, as I am coming to love it.

Feel free to add your thoughts to the discussion, I will reply...

Monday, July 16, 2012

New Poetry Competition 2012/2013

The Elements
Classical elements, air, fire, earth and water – these four elements give us everything there is in life. Or perhaps the Chemical Elements are more your thing?
Write a poem about one, some or all of these elements, and send your work to the Poetry Competition. The Adelaide Plains Poets Poetry Competition has now opened, with a closing date of 19 January 2013.
There are cash prizes for the winners, with Commended and Highly Commended certificates, as awarded by the judge. Winners will be announced in March 2013.
If you’d like entry form and guidelines, contact the Competition Secretary, c/- 1594 Germantown Road REDBANKS 5502 or email jeebers@aussiebb.com.au

Or cut and past them from this website.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

My First Poem that Gained Praise

When I was at high school, in Year 9 I think, I wrote a poem as part of a History assignment. I'm sure that my teacher, Mr Scalzi wasn't expecting a poem to be there, but there it was. Mr Scalzi, by the way, went on to bigger and better things after he finished being a school teacher - he went into politics gaining the seat of Hartley for the Liberal Party in 1993 to 2006 in South Australia.

I think Mr Scalzi was impressed by my poem, but I'm not completely positive. I do know however, that my mum was impressed by the poem, because she has kept a copy of it over the years, and has it still. Not the actual poem I wrote for the assignment, but she wrote it out and keeps it written into a journal she has. 

The assignment was something to do with somewhere in the Ancient world that began with a 'C'. It may have been Carthage, I really don't remember. I've never been that interested in History, I prefer things that are happening now.

When I was at Mum's place last week, I finally got around to asking for a copy of the poem. I knew in general what the poem was about, but couldn't remember how it actually went. Now I know. Mum photocopied the page in her journal, and I brought the copy home.

I was in Year 9 in 1977, so I guess it's not that surprising I can't remember the poem word for word. What is amazing, I feel is that my dear Mum has kept the words. Now that's the sign of a good Mum, and my mother is definitely one of the best mothers around!

Anyway, in the interest of posterity, I've decided to put this dear little poem 'out into the world wide web' so here it is!

Earth Mother
I sacrificed my daughter to you
But still we are hungry
What more must we do?

Must I give you my son
my cows, my wife
Or must I give to you
my own life?

I welcome any and all feedback - remember I was 13 or 14 when I wrote this, and I'm not sure if I'd written much poetry before this. I had been brought up on Banjo Paterson though, my dad was a huge fan of his. Banjo was one of Australia's great Bush Balladeers in years past.

Friday, July 13, 2012

More on my Verse Memoir

Today I had what I consider to be a brilliant idea. I decided I would trawl through my journal to see if there was anything in there that could/should be added to my Multiple Sclerosis memoir. I've had this journal for a while - my dear son Jake gave it to me for Mothers Day in 2011. I don't use it like a diary, I use my mobile phone for the daily stuff I need to remember.

I use the journal more as a place I can visit to talk through things that are happening in my life. And of course, there are things happening, things that are new and different in my life. MS is the main thing in my life that's new and different, so of course I've written about it in my journal.

I was actually surprised to see the number of things that were relevant to my memoir, and I intend typing them up and putting them into the best places, One of the first things I did when I started thinking about this memoir, was to write a list of chapter headings. This gives me a good idea about which bits of writing should go where.

It's comforting to know that if I put something in the wrong place in this 'first draft' time of writing, then I can go back and move it in a later draft. I'm so glad for the computer with its wonderful 'cut and paste' facility! Life would have seemed impossible without this, typing up a memoir on a typewriter would have seemed impossible, instead of being completely do-able.

So today I've added more than 2,000 words since Tuesday this week, with another couple of hundred words at least, sitting there in my journal and waiting to be typed up. This feels like it's going well, and I'm excited!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

My Memoir - Word Count

So, a week after realising I had to actually get moving with the writing of my memoir I'm writing about my new life with MS (multiple sclerosis), I've begun writing bits and pieces most days. I'm following the advice my poetry mentor, Ray Tyndale, gave me, and picking the bits I feel like writing, and not worrying about writing down in a linear way.

I've been thinking about a final word count, how many words a verse memoir should amount to. It's a tricky question, because there may not have been terribly many verse memoirs written in the past. Writing in verse rather than prose requires fewer words for the final product.

Anyway, I feel like 50,000 words is the correct number to be thinking about/planning for. I spoke to a writer friend today, and this is the figure she felt might be good, up to 50,000, less would be OK. I'm not happy with anything less than 50,000, I don't think. Less than 50,000 seems too flimsy...

Anyway, I wrote some the day before yesterday, the more yesterday, and I've written more today. Some of the word count is made up of poems I wrote before, as part of getting over and accepting my diagnosis. I've written about my walker, acceptance, tripping and falling. As I think about each chapter, I find the appropriate poem in my computer folders.

As of 7pm today, my word count for my memoir is 6,000 words. This is over ten percent of my proposed final word count, and I've still got 5 months to go! That feels completely like something I can do. I mustn't get complacent though, and having a mentor who I meet up with often will make sure of that.

It's a work in progress, and it's progressing well!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Update on my Verse Memoir

Today I've sent the next part of my current work-in-progress to my poetry mentor. I'm more or less happy with what I've written, but I'm open to ideas and suggestions. If I wasn't, then this mentor thing would be a waste of time fro the two of us.

As it is, I'm enjoying the process very much so far. It's only early days, but I have a new focus on the style of my writing of the book, and I have an idea of how much time I should be giving myself to get the first draft written. Hmm, and idea from my mentor and I didn't faint when she said the words - six months...

No I didn't faint, but I mentally caught my breath. With a six month time limit, it means I'd better stop strolling around the edges and looking through my head in a lackadaisical kind of way. I'd better get working!

So, starting today, I will write something new every day on this work. I've been thinking about medicines, so that's where I'm going right now. Off to the medicine cabinet!

If you have MS and you have any thoughts on your medications, I'd love to know what you think about it all.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Society of Smiling Scribes First Meeting

I was prepared to be the only person there for the meeting of the new group, the Society of Smiling Scribes. I'd told the hotel I was holding the meeting there, and I'd put the word out in the local newspaper. I'd received three apologies, and was prepared to sit there with a nice cup of coffee, and a yummy slice of cake.

Imagine my pleasant surprise then when a woman walked into the hotel, with a notebook in her hand, looking around as though she wanted to find someone she didn't already know. I asked if she was there for the poetry group, and she said yes! Yay, the first meeting of the Society of Smiling Scribes was on!

We chatted about ourselves, our writing, our experiences in writing. We both wrote know poems, each a limerick about the Mallala Hotel, and other poems too. All in all, it was a successful meeting. I took notes and we made a date for the next meeting.

So, in a weeks time, the second meeting of the Society of Smiling Scribes will take place, perhaps with at least some of the people attending who'd put in their apologies for today's meeting - I'm one happy little poet!

Do you meet for poetry writing meetings? I'd love to hear your stories about the things that you do in your group!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Visit to Poetry Mentor, New Direction

I travelled to Semaphore this morning to see Ray Tyndale, who is my mentor for the writing of my MS memoir in verse. Ray had read the initial part of my memoir, and offered some extremely useful comments. 

She praised my writing, but let me know she felt I would be best off embracing verse more fully in the writing of the parts of my memoir that aren't actual poems. My memoir is all about my experiences so far with my new disease of MS (multiple sclerosis). I've included poems I've written as I work at getting my head around my new life of living with MS. 

With the prologue, I had tried to go halfway between prose and poetry, in the writing of it, but I lost my 'voice' to some extent, and ended up simply writing chopped off lines, rather than writing poetry. As soon as Ray pointed this out to me, I could see what she meant. I've taken her words to my heart, and will try to write with my poetic voice now.

Hearing Ray's praise of my poetry was heartening, and I feel revved up and ready to go with this project. I will send more of my memoir to Ray as soon as I can, and will see her again in a fortnight, so we can both see how I've gone with my new direction.

Writing about my experiences, I hope will bring much to other people who are struggling with their own challenges. I've found much from reading and hearing the stories of others, whether they are living with what I'm living with, or something else. Most people have challenges, and I'm doing my best to live my life well, with MS and with whatever else that stands in my way. Living my life in the best way I can, is my challenge, one I'm glad to say I'm meeting almost every day. 

Challenges are helping me to grow into a better person.