Six of Andrew’s judge’s reports are reproduced on this page:
 
1. “Judge’s Report: 2009 Karen W Treanor Poetry Awards”
2. “Judge’s Report: 2010 Patron’s Prize Literary Competition”
3. “Judge’s Report: 2010 Spilt Ink Short Story Competition”
4. “Judge’s Report: 2011 Fremantle Press Online Tanka Competition”
5. “Judge’s Report: 2013 Karen W Treanor Poetry Awards
6. “Judge’s Report: 2016 Poetica Christi Press Annual Poetry Competition”.
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Judge’s Report:

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Karen W Treanor Poetry Awards 2009

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by Andrew Lansdown

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I was pleased to receive an invitation by the Katharine Susannah Prichard Foundation to judge the 2009 Karen W Treanor Poetry Awards. Given that this is the inauguration of the Awards, I felt doubly honoured to be entrusted with this responsibility. My thanks to Fay Dease, Glen Philips, Paula Jones, Katrin Kuenstler and others involved with by the Katharine Susannah Prichard Foundation.

Sixty-nine poems were entered in the Karen W Treanor Poetry Awards, which is a good number for a new competition. As is to be expected, the poems varied greatly in subject, theme, style and tone. Although the quality of the poems was uneven, most were cogent and accessible. This is praiseworthy in an age when pretension and ambiguity are often passed off as profundity.

Before commenting on the winning and commended poems, I would like to make a comment on the submissions generally. I noticed several faults reoccurring in the poems and it may be helpful to mention two of these faults.

The first fault involves the use of clichés. A cliché is a phrase, expression, image or aphorism that has become commonplace. Consider some examples taken from poems entered in the Awards: “busy as bees”; “quiet as a mouse”; “tough as nails”; “time to smell the roses”; “good enough to eat”; “date with destiny”; “time catches up to us all”; “life is what you make it”;“solid as a brick; “salty tears”; and “tender years”. Such expressions are hackneyed and slip out of the reader’s mind as easily as they slipped out of the poet’s pen. There is no freshness or vividness in clichés and that is why they have no place in poetry.

The second fault involves the absence of poetic technique from many of the poems. Many entrants used rhyme but seemed to be unaware of any of the other literary devices available to poets. Metaphor, imagery, alliteration, assonance, consonance, cadence, euphony, subtlety, understatement—these beautiful, powerful devices and approaches were not used, and so the poems lacked the beauty and power that these things can give. Perhaps the general lack of poetic devices indicates a general lack of poetry reading? One way to learn how to write poetry is to learn how successful poets have written it; and to do this, it is essential to read poetry. Certainly, to write poetry well, one needs to read poetry often. A high school or a university poetry anthology (available in secondhand bookshops) could be a good place to start. Alternatively, have a look at the selection of poems by famous poets that I have posted on my website at: http://andrewlansdown.com/favourite-poems/.

Now to the Awards! After considerable deliberation, I selected the following entries for prizes and commendations:

First Prize – Open

First Prize in the Open Awards goes to Roland Leach for “The Middle East Sonnets”.

“The Middle East Sonnets” was the clear winner of the Open section. It is a suite of three sonnets set in and dealing with Palestine. They are not conventional sonnets: they do not have a set rhyme scheme and are not arranged into three quatrains and a couplet (like a Shakespearian sonnet) or an octave and a sestet (like a Petrarchan sonnet). They are sonnets simply in the sense that they are “little songs” in fourteen lines.

Although I had no idea who had written these sonnets, I concluded the writer was probably an established poet. For the poems demonstrated a competence and control that set it apart from most of the other Award entries.

The opening sonnet, “Babel”, recounts the biblical story of how God destroyed the lingua franca of the human race to put a halt to their united effort to build a tower to reach into heaven. God, the Bible tells us, threw the builders into confusion by causing them to speak different languages. Here is how Roland Leach portrays this event:

He sent down winds from a dozen lands,

filled with mountain echoes, voices of birds

and storms, the sounds of water on rock

and let them fill their mouths till their words

separated them, thick and stone as walls.

The second sonnet, “Gaza 2009”, brings us to present-day Palestine and the conflict between Jews and Arabs, Israel and Hamas. Although I do not personally share the poet’s political perspective, I acknowledge the superb way in which he expresses his sympathies and entices the reader’s. The precise detail, the sparse wording, the emotional restraint—these give power to the poem, which concludes:

In this land of walls walls walls they [Israeli soldiers] intrude

into the intimacy of rooms. Graffiti is not enough.

The shelling is not enough. Soldiers drop bags of scat.

Leave their scent like great desert cats.

And the connection between the first and second sonnet is not merely one of geography. The poet seems to be offering the first as an explanation for the conflict between the different people groups in Palestine: their differences go back as far as the Tower of Babel when they were split into different groups through the imposition of different languages.

The third and final sonnet, “Kites”, is closely connected in situation and subject to the second sonnet. It beautifully counterbalances the devastations of war with the enjoyment of an innocent pastime. I can’t resist quoting it in its entirety:

They are flying kites at Beit Lahiya.

Children with kites, women in black burqas.

Attached to the sky. On the beach at Beit

Lahiya where buildings expose their skeletons,

the kites are coloured confetti, they are splashes of paint.

Lifting with the wind, defying gravity.

They are held by blood. Months ago there were

only stray gunmen in alleys. People pleading

for blood. You need wind to defy gravity.

Things fall. It is a law of nature. Bombs

fall. Missiles rise and fall. Buildings expose

their skeletons. It is a law of nature.

On a beach in Gaza with homemade kites

children, women, men, make peace with the sky.

Second Prize – Open

Second Prize in the Open Awards goes to Frederick MacKay for “The Artist’s Painting”.

This poem consists of eight rhyming quatrains (aabb, ccbb, ddbb, eebb, etc). The subject of the poem is the young woman in Renoir’s paining The Excursionist. The poet is troubled by the anonymity of the woman. The first four quatrains each end in the line, “Will I ever know your name?” This stock repetition is skilfully done and gives the poem the “feel” of traditional European forms such as the villanelle and the triolet. It also serves to reinforce the poet’s concerns: Who is this woman? Why is she unknown when the artist is so well known for portraying her? The penultimate stanza is an insightful summing up of the poem’s themes and mood:

If in time … we could go back

We could give your image the missing fact

Give you some glory to share the fame

The respect of being known by name.

Third Prize – Open

Third Prize in the Open Awards goes to Danielle Monique for “In A Dark, Dark Castle”.

“In A Dark, Dark Castle” is a dark, dark fairy tale of a ghoul “With a fat, fat mouth” who delights to eat small, small children! The poet (or narrator) distances herself from her gruesome tale by disclaiming responsibility for it:

My wicked, wicked nanny

Always fond of things quite gory

Took great, great pleasure

When telling me this story:

This opening stanza sets out the structural pattern that the poet skilfully duplicates in the following seven stanzas: an abcb rhyme scheme and a word repetition (“wicked, wicked”/ “great, great”) in the middle of the first and third lines. Were it not for its macabre subject, this narrative poem could pass as a children’s poem.

Commended – Open

There are five Commended entries in the Open Awards, and they are, in no particular order:

  • “Gimlet” by Peta Leiper
  • “A Wife’s Lament” by Carmel Durbidge
  • “Voices: Murujunga/Burrup Peninsular” by Dorothy Dellaway
  • “Goodbye Cancer” by Melanie Daniel
  • “The Life of Crows” by Joan Steele

Preamble to Youth Awards – A Matter of Plagiarism

Before announcing the winning and commended poems in the Youth section of the Karen W Treanor Poetry Awards, I need to offer some words of explanation and caution.

I originally chose a poem titled “Existence” for First Prize in the Youth Awards. The poem’s cover sheet told me that the poet was 14 years old; and after I notified the Katherine Susannah Pritchard Foundation of my decision, I was informed that the person who submitted the poem was a girl and that her name was such-and-such. For reasons that will become obvious, I will withhold her real name and refer to her as “Jane”.

When I first read “Existence” I was impressed with its subtlety and restraint. However, I was troubled by the thought that it was too sophisticated (in thought, emotion and technique) for a 14 year old poet, and I found myself wondering if it might be plagiarised. But I put this thought aside and awarded it First Prize, for it certainly was a standout poem.

However, several days after finalising my selection of the winning and commended poems, I could not shake the feeling that something was wrong. So I did a Google search on the internet—and, to my dismay, I found the poem on several websites. It turns out that the poem, “Existence”, submitted by Jane is in fact a poem titled “Buoyancy”, written in the 13th century by the Persian poet Rumi.

In the light of this discovery, I disqualified Jane and awarded first prize to another entrant instead.

The Bible warns, “Be sure your sins will find you out.” How fortunate it is for Jane that she was found out now, while still young. How unfortunate it would have been if she had won the Youth Award with a stolen poem and had thereby been encouraged and emboldened to go on stealing and deceiving. And how miserable it would have been for her if she had not been found out and so had to keep on covering up her actions for the rest of her life! Here is a real cautionary tale for all aspiring writers: Don’t plagiarise! It is immoral, if not illegal; and the guilty, sooner or later, will be found out and shamed! As for Jane, her real name is on record and she will not be permitted to enter any other awards administered by the Katharine Susannah Prichard Foundation until she is 18 years old.

Finally, I want to say to Jane: Be sorry, but don’t be disheartened. Put this behind you. You are young and this matter need not define you. I and the Award organisers wish you the best and trust you will go on from this incident to become a woman and writer of integrity.

First Prize – Youth

First Prize in the Youth Awards goes to Taylah Howard for her poem “Aussies”. And let not the trouble I have just mentioned detract from Taylah’s achievement!

“Aussies” is a light-hearted celebration of the Australian way of life. It is written in rhyming quatrains and demonstrates a good grasp on the poet’s part of Australian culture and the Australian vernacular. In the space of eight stanzas it touches on such iconic Australian things as G’days, BBQs, gum trees, Holden utes, Akubras, “Waltzing Matilda”, tucker, thongs, chucking a sickie, flies, tinnies, footy, Thorpy, Freeman and Warnie. It is a good-fun poem, cleverly told, and nicely captures the self-depreciating pride that Australians have in their country, customs and colloquialisms. The last two stanzas are worth quoting:

Watching the footy with a pie in the hand,

Cheering our team, proudly we stand,

Chanting our team song, we are as loud as a zoo,

Wearing our team colours, we are a motley crew.

 

“Crickey it’s a croc,”

“Don’t worry she’ll be right,”

“Pass us a stubby mate

And we’ll party all night.”

Second Prize – Youth

Second Prize in the Youth Awards goes to Matthew Andreotta for his poem “The Last Question”.

The epigraph for Matthew’s poem is taken from The Last Question by Isaac Asimov, and reads: “Man’s last mind paused before fusion, looking over a space that included nothing but the dregs of one last dark star …” The poem is a meditation on the folly and possible extinction of mankind. It is a dark, surreal poem with a light, ingenious ending:

His universe began to die, space grew black …

Is this the end? – He thought –

Can this chaos be reversed – can that not be done?

He heard a reply, through this fiery cancer:

INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR MEANINGFUL ANSWER.

Commended – Youth

There are four Commended entries in the Youth Awards, and, at random, they are:

  • “The Design of All” by Kieren McRobert
  • “A Revolution” by Siobhan Deacon
  • “Goalie” by Amelia Quaife
  • “The Dream” by Hollie Pablo

Winner, Under 13s

The winner of the Under-13s Awards goes to Nathan Holbrook for “A Cold Emotion”.

“A Cold Emotion” is a fine effort for a poet who is just 12 years of age. It is a dramatic monologue, being written from the viewpoint of a homeless person, and shows an admirable sympathy on the poet’s part for the poor and underprivileged. The poem begins:

The gentle calm of a winter day

The heat has gone, where snow will stay

Some call it beautiful, but not me

There is no artistic vision in a frozen tree

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Others see icicles, where I see tears

The richest people just give sneers

Through the window a warm fire burns

When I try to enter, I am turned

Conclusion

To the winning and commended entrants, I express my congratulations. To those entrants who missed out this time, I express my best wishes for next time!

And again, my thanks to the office bearers of the Katharine Susannah Prichard Foundation for entrusting me with the task of judging the inaugural Karen W Treanor Poetry Awards. I think it can be safely said that the Awards have been successfully launched! May they flourish to the benefit of many poets in the years to come.

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Copyright © Andrew Lansdown, 2009

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This report was delivered at the Awards Ceremony at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Foundation on Sunday, 6 December 2009.

 

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Judge’s Report:

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2010 Patron’s Prize Literary Competition

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by Andrew Lansdown

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I would like to thank the Peter Cowan Writers Centre for inviting me to judge the 2010 Patron’s Prize Literary Competition. I am honoured by your trust.

Seventy-eight poems were entered in the competition and they varied greatly in subject, theme, style and tone. They also varied considerably in literary quality. However, almost all the entries were intelligible and accessible, which is a commendable quality in poetry, or any other literary work. There was little evidence of poets pretending to be profound by being deliberately obscure.

Before announcing the prize winning and commended entries, I would like to make some comments on the entries generally.

I could not help but notice a recurrence of certain problems in many of the poems, and it may be useful to mention these.

But first a word of explanation: I intend to quote some lines from some of the entries to illustrate some of the problems I have encountered while judging the competition. If I use part of your poem as an example, please don’t be upset. Understand that, firstly, no one knows the words are yours, and no one need know. Secondly, you are not the only one who has had a given problem. Thirdly, my sole intention is to help. Indeed, if faults are not identified, if weaknesses are not exposed, how can a poet correct them in existing works or avoid them in future works?

Here, then, are some of the failings that appeared and reappeared in the poems I judged:

  • Cliché: A commonplace, overused expression or image, the use of which betrays lazy and unoriginal thinking – for example, “impetuous youth”; “glassy sea”; “sparkling diamonds”.
  • Poeticism: Overly “poetic” language, often involving archaic words or words found only in flowery poetry of “yore” (oops, a poeticism in my prose!) – for example, “dew-kissed”; “dewy”; “briny tears”; “tresses”; “the rain was caressed by gentle light”; “the wind caressed the leaves”.
  • Melodrama: Overly emotional, extravagantly expressed sentiment and style – for example, “Soldiers’ satanic stare/ glaring poisonous retribution”.
  • Prosaism: Bland, uninteresting, prosaic language formations, devoid of poetic subtlety and compression (and often didactic and preachy in tone and intent) – for example, concerning the destruction of the environment, “This is all caused by people not thinking about what they are doing./ This can all be prevented if you stop and think”.
  • Overwriting: The use of unnecessarily complicated and uncommon language, resulting in an irritatingly artificial and inflated style and tone – for example, “heed sagacious elders”.
  • Implausible image: A word picture or figure that lacks realism and accuracy, and consequently lacks integrity and believability – for example, “opportunistic great white shark salivates”. (Note: Even if sharks could salivate, no one would ever notice because their saliva would be subsumed by the sea.)
  • Mixed metaphor: A metaphor that contains incongruous elements – for example, “Sparkling diamonds dance/ on the sun-drenched sea”. (Note: Representing the sunlight on the sea as “sparkling diamonds” is a clichéd metaphor; but it becomes a mixed metaphor when the “diamonds” are said to “dance”.)

Cliché, poeticism, melodrama, prosaism, overwriting, implausible image, mixed metaphor: poets need to be on guard against these faults because they mar the beauty of a poem and hinder its ability to communicate meaning and emotion. While the absence of these failings does not guarantee a good poem, the presence of them does guarantee a poor poem.

To write poetry well, poets need to learn to use poetic forms and techniques perceptively. And the best way to learn about these forms and techniques is to read fine poems. I encourage all entrants to read (or to keep on reading) poetry written by recognised poets. For those who are unsure where to find such poems, I offer this suggestion: have a look at the selection of poems by esteemed poets that I have posted on my website at: andrewlansdown.com/favourite-poems/.

Now to the Awards! After considerable deliberation, I selected the following entries for prizes and commendations:

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First Prize – Youth

First prize in the Youth section is awarded to Olivia Tran for “Journey Home”.

“Journey Home” is a dramatic monologue, written from the point-of-view of a hatchling turtle. It follows the journey of the turtle from its hatching mound, across the beach and into the sea, its home. The poem is nicely realised, with a consistent tone throughout, systematic development, and plausible details.

Perhaps the most pleasing thing about “Journey Home” is its sense of joy and celebration regarding the turtles hatching. This is in marked contrast to some of the other poems in the Youth section. Half the poems submitted by young people took the environment as their subject. Unfortunately, these environmentalist poems had the tone of politically correct manifestoes, with copious rage directed at theoretical environmental destruction, but no engagement with anything specific in the environment. They treated nature as a “cause” to be championed. But “Journey Home” treats nature as a wonder to be celebrated, and in the process it engages with something actual and specific in nature.

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Commended – Youth

Two other poems in the Youth section deserve special acknowledgement. They are:

“Year Poem” by Meghan Pritchard, which is Highly Commended

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“Hunter vs Soldier” by Lidia Zappa, which is Commended.

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First Prize – Open

First prize in the Open section is awarded to Liana Christensen for “Entering the Lazarus House”.

Set in Christian Britain or Europe in a past century, “Entering the Lazarus House” is a poem about a young woman who enters an institution for “fallen” women. The poem focuses on the night of her committal and opens with these fascinating, tantalising lines:

It’s a bad business, only the stern sexton to witness

dirt fall on the empty coffin

her parents weep silently, each alone in their grief

and she is dead to them and her parish

The precision and restraint of these lines is indicative of the verbal and tonal control displayed throughout the poem.

The poem not only begins with a surprise, but also ends with one. I won’t give it away by quoting or explaining the concluding lines, but will await Liana’s reading to reveal what I mean. I am sure you will enjoy this subdued-yet-hopeful tale of a woman in need of grace in cruel circumstances.

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Second Prize – Open

Second Prize in the Open section is awarded to Pamela Blackburn for “Sestina of the Clouds”.

As its name indicates, “Sestina of the Clouds” is a sestina, a traditional Italian poetic form consisting of six sestets and a concluding tercet in which six key words are repeated in a shifting pattern throughout the poem. The sestina is a difficult form to handle well, but Pamela has proven herself equal to the task. I congratulate her for her daring achievement.

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Commended – Open

Five other poems in the Open section deserve special acknowledgement.

The first, which is Highly Commended, is “Moontalk at Dryandra” by Lynette White.

The remaining five, which are all Commended, are:

  1. “Battlefields” by Shirley Wild
  2. “Scrimshaw” by Paula Jones
  3. “Brown Eyes Clear” by Ken Morrell
  4. “Very Berry Memories” by Pamela Blackburn

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Conclusion

To the winning and commended entrants, I express my congratulations. To those entrants who missed out this time, I express my best wishes for next time!

And again, my thanks to the Peter Cowan Writers Centre, and to the Centre President, John McMullan, in particular, for inviting me to judge the 2010 Patron’s Prize Literary Competition.

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Copyright © Andrew Lansdown, 2010

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This report was delivered at the Peter Cowan Writers Centre on Sunday, 12 September 2010.

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Judge’s Report:

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2010 Spilt Ink Short Story Competition

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by Andrew Lansdown

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I would like to thank Josephine Clarke for inviting me on behalf of OOTA to judge the 2010 Spilt Ink Short Story Competition. I am honoured by the confidence and trust implicit in such an invitation.

I am pleased to report that the great majority of the stories entered in the competition were competently written. Most were tightly focused and expounded a single occurrence or followed a central line of events. Most had believable characters, interesting plots, and satisfying climaxes. Most had consistent style, tone and point-of-view. I commend the entrants for the quality of their stories.

The overall competence of the entries made judging the competition difficult. A judge’s work is always made easier when a number of the entries are poor. These entries can be spotted easily and quickly ruled out of the running. There is nothing subjective about this. Poor stories identify themselves because they fail to meet objective literary standards relating to characterisation, plot development, point-of-view, balance, restraint, consistency, originality and plausibility.

Subjective judgment comes more into play when entries are good. When a dozen or more stories each objectively display a basic competence in syntax and style, a basic restraint in language and tone, a basic consistency in point-of-view and characterisation, a basic plausibility in action and serendipity, a basic originality in plot and subject, and a basic avoidance of cliché and crassness—when a dozen or more stories each realise these objective standards of literary excellence, it becomes difficult to choose between them. It is true that there can be degrees of excellence in literary works, and that those degrees can be discerned. But it is also true that it is much harder to differentiate between two good stories than it is to differentiate between a good and a bad one.

Nonetheless, I sifted through the many good stories to find, in my judgment, the better and best ones as follows:

First Prize

I have awarded first prize to Sarah Evans for “Burying the Button”.

“Burying the Button” is a delightful, whacky, humorous story told from the point of view of a young man who, with his cousin, assists his Uncle Gino in the running of a funeral company. Sarah has shown herself to be a virtuoso of characterisation, colloquial dialogue, descriptive details, pacing, plot twists and figures of speech. Her style is uniformly light and laugh-inducing. Her similes, for example, are not only descriptively plausible, but are also consistent with (and add to) the humours tone and action. Consider just a few examples:

  • He’s strutting his stuff, his chest puffed out like a pouter pigeon on the razz.
  • The hearse wheels squeal like a brace of snared rabbits and then, BANG.
  • The hearse bumper’s dented. The back door’s damaged. Sort of folded. A bit like a kid’s attempt at origami.
  • … Uncle Gino’s not impressed. He’s carrying on like a deflating whoopee cushion.
  • I stare at the clouds … They’re banked high, like white poodles’ topknots.

Sarah Evans can be justly proud of her story “Burying the Button”. It is truly worthy of first prize in this year’s Spilt Ink Short Story Competition.

Second Prize

I have awarded Second Prize to Carol Millner for “The Fairytale Cut”.

“The Fairytale Cut” is a beautifully told fairytale. The prose is sparse, precise and simple. The story has a lovely lucidity in all its parts, and yet in sum it is strangely mysterious.

Third Prize

I have awarded Third Prize to Leanne Searle for “The Trouble with Bali”.

“The Trouble with Bali” is a realistic story told from the point-of-view of a young woman who is struggling in her relationship with her fiancé. The story builds towards a resolution that is plausibly but heartbreakingly reversed in the final paragraph. It deserves to be among the award winning entries.

Highly Commended

I have chosen “Waiting” by Mardi May for highly commendation.

Commended

And I have chosen “The Two-Week Doll” by Liana Christensen for commendation.

To conclude: I congratulate the writers of the winning and commended entries. To those writers who missed out this time, please accept my commiserations—and my best wishes for next time!

And again, my thanks to Josephine Clarke and to Out of the Asylum Writers’ Group for entrusting me with the task of judging the Spilt Ink Short Story Competition. My thanks, too, to Flora Smith for her administrative assistance. Long live OOTA and Spilt Ink!

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© Andrew Lansdown, 2010

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This report was delivered to OOTA members and guests at the Fremantle Arts Centre on Friday, 24 September 2010..

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Judge’s Report:

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2011 Fremantle Press

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Online Tanka Competition

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by Andrew Lansdown

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There were a number of strong entries for the 2011 Fremantle Press Online Tanka Competition. The judges, Wendy Jenkins and Andrew Lansdown, settled on a shortlist of three tanka and, after some to-and-fro, selected ‘Old Flame’ by Rose van Son as the winner:

Old Flame

all the candles lit

just a flicker now and then

the bowl tightly fits

what is left of you and me

murmurings behind closed doors

— Rose van Son

 

As Wendy commented in a recent post, ‘ “Old Flame” uses metaphor to evoke the passing of time and dying down of love’s first flame’. Both Wendy and Andrew felt that ‘Old Flame’ had a mysterious, open quality. It is an atmospheric poem, conveying both visual and emotional shiftings of light and shadow.

Rose van Son handles the tanka form skilfully, keeping the 5-7-5-7-7 syllabic structure, with each line consisting of a balanced phrase, and achieving a shift of thought after the third line. Rose also handles the title well, making it an integral part of the tanka, and using it to focus the reader’s perceptions. (Note: Using a title with a tanka is an acceptable innovation—for although traditionally tanka do not have titles, they are often accompanied by ‘headnotes’, consisting of a phrase or a sentence explaining the poem’s setting, etc.)

Two other tanka entries deserve particular mention: ‘Treasure’ by Annamaria Weldon and an untitled tanka by Gary Colombo De Piazzi.

[Untitled]

portion of each breath

arrested within the throat

neither in nor out

words almost formed in the mind

struggle in the vocal chords

— Gary Colombo De Piazzi

 

Treasure

Cupped by sand, three eggs

lustrous as black-speckled pearls.

Hooded plover’s nest,

set in samphire and limestone –

treasure trove at the tideline.

— Annamaria Weldon

 

Concerning Gary Colombo De Piazzi’s tanka, the judges’ comment in a previous post bear repeating: ‘This tanka is an excellent example of a traditional tanka following the 5-7-5-7-7 syllabic structure. The break of thought and rhythm at the end of the third line is in keeping with the poem’s theme of the difficulty of articulation and utterance.’

Concerning Annamaria Weldon’s tanka, the judges were particularly impressed with its visual richness. The location of both the eggs (‘cupped by sand’) and the nest (‘set in samphire and limestone’) are depicted with clarity and intensity. Indeed, the tanka illustrates how a poet can create vivid imagery simply through precise description and careful diction.

Well, to all the entrants: thank you for your entries. To Rose van Son: congratulations and happy reading!

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As winner of the competition, Rose will receive copies of three poetry books recently launched by Fremantle Press: The Moving World by Michael Heald; The Argument by Tracy Ryan; and Two Poets by Andrew Lansdown and Kevin Gillam.

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This Judge’s Report was written by Andrew Lansdown on behalf of the judges (Wendy Jenkins & Andrew Lansdown).

It can be read on the Fremantle Press blogspot here and on the Fremantle Press Facebook site here.

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Copyright © Andrew Lansdown, 2011

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Judges’ Report:

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Karen W Treanor Poetry Awards 2013

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by Andrew Lansdown

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I wish to thank the good folk of the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre for inviting me to judge this year’s Karen W Treanor Poetry Awards. I count it an honour that the Centre has entrusted me with this task for a second time in five years.

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The poems submitted to this year’s Awards were wide-ranging in subject, theme, mood and setting. As one might expect concerning entries in a literary award, the entered poems varied widely in competence and quality. Yet I am pleased to say that the overall standard of the entries was good, and I commend all the poets for their work and for their willingness to have it judged according to literary standards.

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By way of explanation concerning my selection of the winning poems, and in the hope of helping entrants to have confidence in the judging process—and indeed, in the hope of helping people generally to see the legitimacy of literary awards such as this one—I want to make a comment here about my choice of the winning entries.

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It may surprise entrants to know that there isn’t much subjectivity involved in honestly judging a literary competition. There are objective standards of literary excellence against which every poem can be judged. One such universally acknowledge standard, for example, is that cliches are “bad” and have no place in “good” poetry. (Two exceptions to this standard are: firstly, humorous poetry where cliche is knowingly use to get a laugh or, secondly, narrative poetry where cliche is knowingly used to profile a person as someone who is shallow and/or conformist. But both these exceptions depend for their impact on the fact that they are exceptions to an accepted objective standard and that not only the writer but also the reader understands this.) Another universally acknowledge standard is that metaphors must involve both original and plausible comparisons—whether they are fanciful comparisons like the metaphysical conceits of John Donne or realistic comparisons like the imagist vignettes of T.E. Hulme. Poems can be objectively judged against the objective standards of literary excellence, and it is the task of the literary judge to do precisely that.

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This does not mean, of course, that there is no subjectivity involved in the judging process. The poetry judge will have his or her own perspectives and preferences, and these may influence the judgments that are made—although an honest judge will be aware of this and try to minimise the influence of his or her own biases. But where subjectivity most comes into play in the judging process is in the selection between poems of equal literary merit. In such situations the judge must either flip a coin or go with his or her “feelings”. The judge must say, “Either one could take first place, but I’ll nominate this one because it’s the one that appeals to me most!

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Certainly, I faced this dilemma on several occasions while judging the entries to this competition. It speaks highly of the quality of the winning and placegetting entries that I felt such a dilemma at all.

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First Place – Open

The winning poem in the Open section is “Harlequin Street” by Shey Marque.

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“Harlequin Street” is written from the point-of-view of a girl who is perhaps ten or eleven years old. She speaks nonchalantly, matter-of-factly about herself and her family. Her casual observations build up a picture of a happy childhood in a loving family—not that she herself claims to be, or even thinks of herself as, particularly happy or loved. Rather, she offers the highest testimony that a child can offer to the existence of family love and happiness—she simply takes them for granted.

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One of the remarkable achievements of this poem (assuming it is autobiographical) is the way that the poet not so much remembers her childhood but actually reinhabits it. In the poem, she is that girl again and she is speaking directly and plausibly to us. (The only lapse of plausibility in the entire poem involves a failure of voice, when she speaks of her brother and sister as “my siblings”—but this is just a quibble.)

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In contrast to her own happy family, the neighbouring families are rather troubled. Not that the girl sees this particularly: we see it from the factual observations that she makes. But the contrast between the families is stark—and the contrast serves not as a criticism of the other families but as a confirmation of the contentment and safety that the girl unconsciously enjoys in her own family.

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“Harlequin Street” is written in long, meandering, colloquial lines that are arranged into twenty unrhymed couplets. The string of little happenings and observations that make up the narrative are insightfully chosen and succinctly expressed. Throughout, the language is unerringly simple, direct and precise.

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The poem is full of keen observation and laconic humour, as when, the girl next door comes for help (and I quote):

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After dinner Lesley bangs on our door, says her mother won’t wake. Dad tells her

to stay with us while he calls triple zero and runs next door. Mum feeds her spaghetti

 

and an ice-cream cone piled higher than mine. Outside, the red light of an ambulance

flashes while my family watches Roadrunner. I practise a pirouette and Lesley does

 

the splits …

“Harlequin Street” ends masterfully with a floating half-line, in which the girl (after watching the neighbour mother and children fleeing in a station wagon and the father being taken into custody) states “My family never goes anywhere.” Unbeknown to the girl but fully know to the poet and to us, this statement is highly ironic and is yet another testament to the implicit happiness of her little life. “My family never goes anywhere.” Yes, isn’t that wonderful!

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Certainly, “Harlequin Street” is a wonderful poem, and worthy of first place in the Open Section of the 2013 Karen W Treanor Poetry Awards. I offer my congratulations to Shey Marque.

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Second Place – Open

The poem awarded second place is “Tidal” by Roland Leach.

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“Tidal”, as its title implies, is a poem about tides and tidal movements, both literal and metaphorical. It is a poem about islands and one island in particular. It is a poem about Darwin’s wife, the islanders of Nusa Lembongan, Tolstoy, and the poet’s mother. And, as surprising as it may seem when mentioned in the abstract like this, it is a poem with a unified flow.

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The poems begins with beguiling strength and appeal:

There is a drama to tides on islands;

islands are dramatic, they are children

wanting attention. There is a carelessness,

something mildly delinquent about them.

In this opening stanza, one is immediately struck by the simplicity and precision of the poet’s language, and with the originality and sophistication of his extended metaphor. The opening stanza sets a high standard that the poet maintains consistently through to the closing stanza.

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Poetically, “Tidal” begins with strength and follows through with strength. To read it is to be caught in a rip of the poet’s making, a rip that strands us in the end on an island where

Mothers are not dragged around the house,

wives fret less, the old are not abandoned

on atolls, young boys and girls learn the nature

of tides, notice their shifts, the water’s light.

I offer my congratulations to Roland Leach for a fine poem.

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Third Place – Open

The poem awarded third place is “Poems about the house” by Carol Millner.

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As the title indicates, this is a poem about poems and drafts of poems left lying around a poet’s house—Carol Millner’s house, as it turns out.

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Some of the poems are “Loud flailing poems like giant fish” and struggle against being landed, while others are as “delicate as Japanese tea cups” and “fall and break”. Still other poems, or their drafts, are “Like sycamore seed or dandelion wishes// they yearn to feel the lower sky under their wings”.

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Written in three irregular sections, “Poems about the house” is full of imagery and optimism—and I congratulate Carol Millner on it.

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Commended – Open

On the form the Award organisers gave me to record the names of the winning entries, provision was made for five commended entries in the Open Section. I wasn’t sure whether this meant that I was expected to choose five poems for commendation or simply permitted to choose five if I saw fit. Initially, I thought I would contact the Centre’s Coordinator, Shannon Coyle, to clarify this, because I wondered if I would be able to find as many as five poems to commend in addition to the three placegetters. But after reading and re-reading the entries, I realised that there were, in fact, half-a-dozen or so poems worthy of commendation. The five I have chosen are (in alphabetical order by the poets’ surnames):

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  1. “Above a Seedy Bridal Shop” by Carolyn Abbs

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  1. “Soaked” by Jackson

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  1. “An Auteur Dreams His Therapy” by Ross Jackson

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  1. “The Sheet Could be Silk” by Joanne Mills

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  1. “Tokyo Plushie” by Connor Weightman

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First Place – Youth

The winning poem in the Youth section is “Silt” by Daniel Ortlepp.

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“Silt” is a somewhat ambiguous poem with sophisticated imagery and an appealingly restrained tone. Its structure is also sophisticated, consisting of eleven unrhymed tercets which duplicate the haiku syllabic structure of 5-7-5 syllable respectively. It is quite an achievement!

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The poem has a stream-of-consciousness feeling to it, moving from one observation to another by means of association. It records the shifting thoughts of “someone” who “stands by a river” and “watches it passing”. This “someone” seems to be simultaneously a stranger and the poet, who says of his thoughts, “and they flow away.” And here, in part, is where they flow to:

and they flow away.

Upstream tributaries map out

arterial patterns,

 

silt makes shapes like the

symmetry of the brain halves.

The poem concludes with an image that is both visual and auditory, an image that is quite stunning:

Riverside I touch

 

earth after a long

drought – earth and water – I hear

the rain’s wild heartbeats

Daniel Ortlepp is just eighteen years old. If “Silt” is anything to go by, we will be reading a lot more of his work in years to come. I congratulate Daniel on his fine poem, which deservedly received first place in the Youth section of the Karen W Treanor Poetry Awards.

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Second Place – Youth

The poem awarded second place in the Youth section is “Not Who You Think” by Elisha Nielson, who is thirteen years old.

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“Not Who You Think” is an unsettling poem about “monsters”—

… not the kind that hides in the closet,

Or under the bed,

We’re the kind that will watch you from down the street,

That will wait until you go to sleep and then kill you …

What the poem lacks in poetic finesse it makes up for in sinister atmosphere.

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I congratulate Elisha Neilson on his fine effort and his award of second place!

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Third Place – Youth

The poem awarded third place in the Youth section is “The Australian Bush” by Laura Marchetti.

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“The Australian Bush” is a rhyming poem about the bush and its animals:

In the dawn of the early day,

The sun shows its hot face,

As the wildlife begins to wake,

And move at a slow pace

The strengths of this poem are its use of rhyme and its lack of pretention.

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I congratulate Laura Marchetti on achieving third place in the Youth section.

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Commended – Youth

There are three commended poems. They are (in alphabetical order by the poets’ surnames):

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  1. “Depression. Hope. Longing.” by Benjamin Armstrong

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  1. “Bullying” by Meghan Slattery

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  1. “Please Don’t End Your Life” by Kyara Winmar

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My congratulations to all these young poets.

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Winner, Under 13s

I have awarded the Karen W Treanor Encouragement Award for Under 13s to Alice Farley for “Out of this World”.

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The cleverly titled “Out of this World”, which is written in rhyming couplets, is a light-hearted survey of the planets in our solar system.

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I congratulate Alice Farley on her achievement.

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Copyright © Andrew Lansdown 2013

This Judge’s Report was delivered at the award-giving ceremony at the Katherine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre on Sunday afternoon, 8 December 2013.

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9.

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Judge’s Report:

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Poetica Christi Press

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Annual Poetry Competition 2016

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by Andrew Lansdown

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I was honoured to be entrusted with the task of judging the Poetica Christi Press 2016 Annual Poetry Competition. There was an excellent response to the Competition, with 190 poems entered.

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While the quality of the entries was uneven, many fine poems were submitted. The poems were wide-ranging in subject and theme, touching on family relationships, the natural world, international terrorism, biblical characters, and personal experiences. There were love poems and nature poems, laments and narratives, dramatic monologues and personal lyrics. While the majority of the poems were free form, many included rhyme, and some included regular rhyming couplets or quatrains. It was pleasing to see poets experimenting with some traditional European and Japanese forms: sonnets, villanelles, rondeaux and haiku. While these experiments were not always successful, the poets are to be commended for their endeavours to understand and master the poetic craft.

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It was also pleasing to note that most of the poems were cogent and accessible. There were very few poems that were confused or, worse, deliberately ambiguous.

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I noticed that two flaws kept recurring and it may be helpful to mention these.

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The first problem concerns cliché. A cliché is a phrase, expression, image or aphorism that has become commonplace. Expressions such as (to cite just two examples) “take time to smell the roses” and “you blow my mind” are commonplace and hackneyed. They are easy to write and just as easy to forget. There is no freshness or vividness in clichés and that is why they have no place in poetry.

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The second problem concerns the overuse of adjectives. Adjectives are often unnecessary. Certainly, it is a mistake to think that you can write a poem by piling on adjectives. In some poems, virtually every noun was qualified by an adjective. And some of these adjective-noun combinations were themselves clichés—for example, “silken hair”, “salty tears”, “golden sun”. Thousands of years ago, the first person to describe hair as “silken” or tears as “salty” or sunlight as “golden” did something original and impactful. But since then, the descriptions have been used again and again, tens of thousands of times, so they are now totally lacking in originality and their only impact is to create a sense of overwriting and under-thinking.

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Even when they are not clichéd, adjectives can often be overly poetic, making the poem feel sentimental and twee. Talk of “noble trees”, “barefoot joy” and “ebony-satin shadows”, for example, are the poetic equivalents of purple prose. In fact, the problem with such adjectives is twofold: They are melodramatic, and hence off-putting; and they are deceptive, convincing the poet that sharing emotion is the same as, and as simple as, declaring emotion. Like clichés, adjectives seem like poetic shortcuts, but in reality they are often poetic dead-ends.

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Well, I offer these comments with kind intentions and I hope they will prove beneficial to the poets who read them.

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I commend the entrants in general and the winner and the runner-up in particular.

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The winning poem, “Eternity”, is an assured exploration of the subject/theme of eternity in the light of the life of Arthur Stace, a Christian man who wrote the word “Eternity” in chalk in copperplate font on footpaths around Sydney during the first half of last century. In addition to its logical and developmental tightness, the poem is notable for its form. It consists of nine rhyming quatrains—rhyming (and sometimes half-rhyming) in an ABAB pattern—with an underlying iambic pentameter. Believing, as I do, in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection for those who trust in Jesus, I do not share the poet’s view that “For each of us such questions [about eternity] have no answers”. Nonetheless, I do acknowledge the masterful structure of the poem and the insightful exploration of the subject of Stace and the theme of eternity.

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The runner-up is “Radicalised”, a poem which is written in the form of a villanelle. The poet handles this traditional European form with skill. The two repeat-lines (the first and third lines of the opening stanza) are strong and their repetition throughout the poem is effected naturally and serves to intensify the emotional impact of the poem. Without betraying the innocent victims of the bombings of Islamic extremists, the poet manages to deal sympathetically with a female suicide bomber who is being forced by her ideological handlers to commit what she knows is a monstrous evil. “Radicalised” is a cogent and well-crafted poem and is well-deserving of the runner-up prize.

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Copyright © Andrew Lansdown, 2016

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