'Freedom' competition Judge's Report

JUDGE’S REPORT FOR 2017 ADELAIDE PLAINS POETRY COMPETITION – THEME: FREEDOM

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.

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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!

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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!

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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

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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, October 30, 2012

How to Work with a Mentor

The title of this blog post is perhaps a little misleading. I only know the way I am working with a mentor, and I've only been working with my mentor for about about four months. Other people may find quite different ways of working with a mentor.

I received a grant in the middle of this year, to pay for a mentor to help me with my current writing project. This project is to write a memoir, in verse, about my life since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). I've been a poet for well over ten years, and have had my poetry published, but the idea of writing a memoir in verse was a slightly foreign prospect.

I wanted to do it though, so I found a  possible mentor, and applied for the grant (Richard Llewellyn Arts and Disability Trust grant). I was thrilled to win the grant, which gave me a goodly sum of money to pay my mentor, plus a smaller amount of money for myself.

Since starting work with my mentor, Dr Ray Tyndale, we've been meeting in a lovely cafe in Semaphore, Sarah's Sisters Cafe, and discussing verse, poetry, and my memoir. Ray has been terrific for me - I know to get the best out of this mentor relationship, I must produce new work to share with her, and must carefully consider her words. One of the reasons I felt a mentor would be useful, would be to keep me on track, and that's certainly been happening.

Before we started, Ray told me she would write all over my memoir, as needed, and I mustn't be scared of the red pen! It was a little daunting to see the amount of red pen the first time, but I took in what Ray was saying, and could understand what she was telling me. When I look back at the work I've shared with Ray at the beginning, and compare it with work submitted more recently, I can see, and she can also see, that I can understand what she's been showing and telling me.

I feel this relationship is working well, and we both know that if I ever feel it's not working, I can leave, and that will be OK. I can't see that happening though. I respect Ray's abilities, and enjoy working with her. I feel I know a lot more now about writing in verse, and I have hopes this verse memoir will be a useful reference for people diagnosed with MS, and their families and friends.

If you've ever worked with a mentor, I'd love to hear about how it was for you...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What to Write a Poem About?

Some people have trouble finding things to write poetry about. I don't. I may have trouble giving poetry enough time to do it properly, but I have plenty of ideas about what to write a new poem about.

When I do give myself enough time, I just have to think about what I have happening in my life at the time, and I know what I need to write about. I have several things going on, poetically, at the moment. I have my MS Verse Memoir, my Vegetable Victory Community Foodie Project, and then there's my dogs, Nature, family, politics and more - all things I could write poems about.

So for me, the Ideas aren't a problem. One thing I recommend though, for those who don't have ideas popping into their heads often enough, is a journal. A journal isn't the same as a diary - you don't have to write down lots of stuff every day. With a journal, you just write whatever comes into your head, or whatever you want to think about more deeply.

I rarely use my lovely journal, but whenever I go back and flick through it, I'm amazed at the places my pen takes me. So if you'd love to be astounded by your own mind, get yourself a journal and get writing. In your journal there are no rules. You don't have to use punctuation or grammar, it doesn't matter if your spelling is wrong. With a journal, you just open up your head and let the words pour out!

Do you have a journal? I'd love to hear about it, leave a comment here!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Vegetable Victory, Session Two

Tomorrow I'm heading off to Owen Primary School for the second session of 'Vegetable Victory' - the program devised to introduce students to the wonders of both vegetables and poetry.

In this session the twins of simile and metaphor will be explored, vegetables will be looked at, felt and eaten, and poetry will be read and listened to. I'm excited about it all, and I hope the students will catch my excitement when I'm in the classroom with them!

I have a few things to get ready today to take with me tomorrow, and I'm going to do that as soon as I finish writing this blog post. I promise. No hang on, I've got a better idea - I'll do the getting things ready right now, that way I can report on the finished result of getting it all ready!

OK, here goes - I'll be back soon!

Back again - I have the poems printed out, and poetry books collected for reading from tomorrow. I have all of the catalogues I've been keeping with pictures of vegetables for sale, for students to look at and think about. I have a copy of the Session Plans for the Vegetable Victory program, I've organised the food for tomorrow. I'm ready! I just have to get out of bed earlier than usual tomorrow, and remember to bring my stuff with me!

Easy, peasy!

This is a Community Foodie Program - I'm proud to be a Community Foodie!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Community Radio is Great!

Yesterday (4th October 2012) I had my second interview on a community radio station. The station is a local one, Barossa TripleB 85.1 fm  I was on the program that comes on at 3.00pm, but I was booked to go on at 3.30 to chat with the presenter, Alison Simpson.

I was able to talk about two things I know a fair bit about - myself and poetry. I could have talked for hours about these two things, but I was only there for half an hour. Even so, we only covered a couple of my dot points, plenty more to go next time.

I was nervous, but only enough to make me keen, not enough to make me affected! :) I was able to talk about MS (multiple sclerosis - which is the reason why I mad the comment about being affected - stress can bring on symptoms for MS sufferers), I also talked about the monthly Gawler Poets at the Pub poetry readings event. I spoke of my current writing project too - the writing of my memoir (in verse) about my new life living with MS. I talked about my first poetry collection too. The collection was self-published last year, and was launched at the Gawler Poets at the Pub. The title of my poetry collection is 'damaged children Precious Gems', and it has a theme of child abuse and sexual abuse. Serious stuff, detailing my personal journey from victim to survivor, and touching on various relevant issues.

I began my time on the radio yesterday by reading a recent poem of mine, which I'd read the Sunday before at the Gawler Poets at the Pub (Prince Albert Hotel, last Sunday of every month except December). The poem is topical for people living in South Australia at the moment - it's a poem about a snake sighting I had last week - the brown snakes are out and they're moving around the place. I drove past one on Thursday last, and the another one on Wednesday this week. On the way home from the radio station yesterday, I drove past another snake. It may have been a different type of snake - it was much darker than the other two.

All in all, being on the radio was a fun time for me, and obviously I did well enough chatting with Marilyn, that she's happy to have me back again. So, Thursday, 3.00 pm next week I'll be on the radio again - I want to talk about the Adelaide Plains Poets poetry competition, and my volunteer project as a Community Foodie working with Primary School students to get them thinking about and eating vegetables, using poetry, and hoping to get them writing their own poems about vegetables. I did this last year with another primary school, and enjoyed it so much, I wanted to do it again this year!