Adelaide Plains Poetry Competition, 2012/13
This was a pleasurable competition to judge, and most entrants had tried really hard to address the theme of The Elements. Some poets, especially young poets, came at the subject matter quite tangentially and maybe there were some misconceptions about what the elements describe, but most made a very good attempt at least to involve some reference to Earth Fire Air or Water, including a large number of bushfire poems. Only one poet utilized the Table of Elements, but more of that later.
There were eight entries at Primary level, but The Australian Way (Emily Zdanowicz) stood out, a poem about life on the land. Good rhyme and rhythm and telling a popular narrative of drought and bush spirit: First Prize. The Second placegetter, A New Dawn (Brynnie Rafe) is a competent attempt at free verse, with good rhythm; a bit over-dramatic - more “opera” than “musical!” Summer Heat (Elizabeth Harley) was Commended.
There were only two entries at Secondary level, neither particularly polished, but to be encouraged with Commended certificates: Jane Zdanowicz and Ashleigh Mounsen.
65 entries into the adult open section led to a shortlist of about a dozen. An overemphasis on rhyme, sometimes extremely clichéd and often at the expense of rhythm and interest, let some poets down. It struck me that many poets in this open section had probably not read aloud to themselves their own poems. If you are going to pick up mistakes in rhythm you can only do it aloud to yourself - and not a mutter: you really need to declaim your poems to hear if they work.
The shortlist was full of interest. Some poems were a bit laboured, as if the writers had found the theme quite difficult to address adequately. Some concrete poems were clever, one marred only by an unfortunate last line.
I commended Aftermath (David Campbell) as one of the better bushfire poems, of which there were many. The judge lived through the Ash Wednesday bushfires on the farm in the Adelaide Hills and has not been able to write poetry about that day and its aftermath. David has managed to catch the ongoing psychological damage well. Practised and poignant bush poetry.
Highly Commended to Sonnet to the Wind (Shelley Hanson) and Liquid Sculptures (Anna Jacobson), this latter an effective concrete poem, looking good on the page as well as pleasing to the ear.
I was never in any doubt about the winning poets, my only problem was choosing a single first prize winner. Such a brilliant light touch from Judy Ferguson with Earth Air Fire Water. Outstanding in its simplicity, everything pared down to only the essence. The poem about Marie Curie, Lady of the Elements, (Shelley Hanson) was so good and a really clever take on the theme. A good narrative poem, good rhyme and rhythm, good storyline, neat stanzas, the whole poem all of a piece. Good work. These two poets were so far ahead of the field that a shared first prize was the only option.
Thank you for allowing me to share your work. It is great to see Australian poets working hard at this artform. Well done everybody and never give up!
Dr Ray Tyndale