Poetica Christi Press 2017 Annual Poetry Competition – Wonderment
Judge’s Report by Peter Stiles (Dr.)
The poems entered in the competition this year were consistently of a good standard. Reading through them all was an enjoyable experience. They reflected the meaningful moments and thoughtful observations that a significant number of poets wanted to capture and share in a variety of poetic forms. Many of them encapsulated what poetry does best, that is ‘emotion recollected in tranquillity’, as Wordsworth put it in his Preface to Lyrical Ballads, in 1800. Poetry helps to shape the individual consciousness and serves to temper the frenzied superficiality of so much modern living. It is undoubtedly therapeutic. Good poetry emanates from stillness, even silence, and is attentive to detail in a way that other literary forms are not suited to or ignore. There are exceptions, of course, such as the Australian novelist and essayist, Tim Winton, who is a reflective and respectful observer of the natural world.
The best poems in the competition drew me into a moment of time, a slice of life, a particular experience that had deep meaning for the poet concerned. Some dealt with seemingly mundane situations, like standing at the kitchen sink and looking up at the sky. Others focussed on exotic themes, such as the mass migration of Monarch butterflies. Both types captured the wonderment that is possible for those who take time to be attentive. The world we share, as poets, is alive with enchantment, wonder and mystery. I first read The Orange Tree, by John Shaw Neilson, when I was a boy. In that poem this early Australian poet visualises the magic in the everyday so well.
Effectively capturing this richness, however, can be a challenge. Poets should read over their poems again and again to see if there is a better word, a more apposite phrase, some fresh and original ways to express an idea. Good poems usually have concentrated language, but read well rhythmically, with a lyrical quality that rings true to the ear of the reader. Preludes, by T. S. Eliot, is an excellent example; perfect in diction, perfect in cadence. It is a truly memorable poem. The best poems in the competition had this quality. They read well, and would be satisfying to the listener if read aloud.
I particularly liked the poems in the competition that had a clear sense of direction and were essentially transparent. Obscure and inscrutable poetry does not serve the cause of poetry. Some of the best poems had a delicacy and simplicity about them that was compelling. Less is usually best in poetry. Having said that, I also liked the poems that had a historical theme, and also those that had an inter-textual quality to them. Deep learning and wide reading are often captured in good poetry. Christian poets should restrain their desire to turn their poems in homilies. Gentle understatement is the best way to allow God’s grace to be felt through verse.
Finally, I passed over poems that obviously made no reference to the theme of wonderment. Strident poems with an aggressive or abrasive tone seemed to have little place in the context of this competition. Good poetry avoids the clamour and attention seeking purposes of some other forms of written expression, and relies on subtlety and nuanced language to reveal the truths about the everyday. Our lives are full of riches and wonderment, just waiting for the eye, ear and heart of the discerning poet.
The winner of the competition was ‘Flight of the Monarchs’, an excellent poem about the mass migration of Monarch butterflies to Sierra Chincua, Mexico. It captures this spectacular, exotic event in a succinct, compelling manner, the reader drawn into a journey that juxtaposes life and death, flight and breathtaking clusters of colour in the forest. It is a very suitable poem for the theme of wonderment. The runner up was ‘Ink’, a touching poem about the loss of a brother in World War One. This clever poem explores the impression that writing can have on our memory, our consciousness, using ink as a metaphor for blood. The hopelessness and waste of war is stressed throughout. Wonderment is subtly suggested in the enduring nature and profound legacy of the written word. Other poems that stood out were ‘Two-sided coin’, ‘The colour of music’, ‘Rayonnement’, ‘Sleeping in Sturt’s Stony Desert’, ‘Summer Peaches’, ‘Illumination’, and ‘Apollo 8’. All had a special quality that set them apart from the rest of the poems.
Peter Stiles (Dr.) 9 July 2017
JUDGE’S CHOICES – 2017 COMPETITION – Wonderment
Flight of the Monarchs – Avril Bradley
Ink – Gabrielle Rowe
Two-sided coin – Valerie Volk
The colour of music – Margaret Ferrell
Rayonnement – Gwendolyn Doumit
Sleeping in Sturt’s Stony Desert – Sue Grocke
Summer Peaches – Anne Cook
Illumination – Gabrielle Rowe
Apollo 8 – Nola Passmore
Supposing Him to be the Gardener (i ) Born Again – Jeff Guess
Suddenly singing – Ron Heard
Cathedral – Janice Williams
Black bathers – Vivien de Jong
The trip home – Tru S Dowling
Triduum – a canticle of love – Tru S Dowling
Driftwood – Stephen House
Three Haiku – a triptych of wonderment – Florence Lisner
Garden art – Dale Harcombe
The flight of geese – Anne Cook
Japanese menu – 2nd course – Janine Johnston
Sitting on a verandah at White Cliffs – Toni Brisland
St Luke’s, Toowoomba – Joan Ray
Cluster – Gabrielle Rowe
Low tide, Wynnum – Ron Heard
Shortlisted for the Australian Christian Book of the Year. Please also click on the next link which comes up to access the document.
Tea Party © Joy Chellew
Today it lives in a crystal cabinet
my bright little china teapot
shaped like an English cottage.
It’s not valuable to anyone but me.
You see, the secret of its worth
is safely deposited and stored away
in my own special memory bank.
Time was when I arranged
tea parties on lonely afternoons
lovingly shaping pretend cakes
with mud and grass and pretty petals
to share with Betsy, my china doll,
and we took tea and happily chatted.
You think that strange?
I enjoyed those quiet hours
and happy conversations.
In my imagination
our back yard became
my imitation English garden.
To this day I remember
how that little china teapot
poured away all my loneliness.
Rowboat © Maree Silver
Pushing out from
an inlet’s reed-bed
into the amber river
we head upstream
Oars rest in rowlocks
bend stroke bend
body in harmony
at one with the boat
Sun shines through cobalt
Rays glint from wavelets
splashing gently into banks
Green parrots’ staccato screeches
warn the flock of our intrusion
Reaching Picnic Bend
we swim sunbake
play on the sandy beach
savour our al fresco lunch
Relaxed for return journey
downstream with the current
oars dip and draw around
fallen trees and branches
Arriving back at
our sheltered haven
oars are shipped
Tiny Tim made safe
have just begun
Childish Things © Jean Sietzema-Dickson
I’ll make a list of all the things
with which my childhood really rings:
of clocks and socks
and chicken pox,
of toys and joys
with playing blocks,
of thrills and spills
in climbing trees,
and wounded knees,
of rhymes and times
of reading books
and kitchen fun
of playing cooks
of cubby houses in the bush
and swinging branches with a whoosh…
of picnics at the creek below our house
of playing Pooh Sticks It was ‘grouse’.
Dropping sticks the upstream side
we ran across to watch them glide
out from beneath the bridge. The creek
flowed slowly. We had time to seek
for berries on the bank.
Not these days!
Our adult lives rush
past us in a haze.
Phoebe © Cecily Falkingham
here she comes, our little princess
she dances lightly in her new pink shoes
multi-coloured ribbons shine
on her bouncing curls
eyes shining, she spins and weaves
her happiness sweeps us up and carries
us to a new realm, where each
minute is precious, each second enough
we could learn a lot from this child
she already knows some of
life’s big secrets
embrace the now, dance, laugh, sing, love,
explore and share these gifts
put on the music grandma, let’s dance
Newborn Janette Fernando
Two become one
and you are conceived,
the moment of birth draws near.
No longer confined,
you are exposed.
We see who you are
and we name you.
You look so perfect –
ten fingers, ten toes, such tiny nails,
a wise but innocent face.
Fragile, yet strong,
helpless, but free;
your life a paradox.
The cord is cut
and one becomes two.
The letting go begins.
Waterfight © Peter White
the water flies
loaded arcs of riotous laughter
cascades of ever building crescendos
down hair, faces, tummies, leg
pools on the grass
slowly turning to mud
delighted yelps of oh no!
help! ring out
like rays of sunshine
bathing the park in summer
wet bodies ducking, weaving
behind slides, trees, somewhere to hide
drenched but elated
tired and wrung out
water buckets packed and stowed
hair shaken out
drying bodies pick up towels
car keys, drive themselves home
Behind the River Reeds © Yan Sun
Across the river
behind the reeds
there lives a Water Dragon
so they say.
Finally I find my way there
on a hot summer’s day;
under the big wooden wheel
water splashes happily.
Pushing through green reeds
It’s him –
the secretive Water Dragon!
No shining scales
just lots of bones
brown, muddy and v-e-r-y long;
it stretches into the rice paddy
that knows no bounds.
Take off my sandals
climb onto the Dragon
slowly I start to walk
and before long I run.
I feel the Dragon moving;
I am flying!
Higher and higher
on the Dragon’s back…
Foreseen © Don Helmore
‘Except you become as little children
you will not enter the heavens.’ Matt 18:3
Bend, and depth-look
into a wee babe’s eyes.
You may peek through
into warm womb wonder.
In time, beyond
that unborn place,
the acorn mysteries
form a moving
Wholesome seed memory
directs wise thought.
Look within wee babe’s eyes,
go soon my friends.
The Salon © Leigh Hay
I find them together
quiet as mice
‘Ted’ sitting upright on a little wooden chair
the floor beneath a growing mound
of nylon shavings faintly blue
the colour of him.
She’s wielding scissors
(her very own pair)
giving Ted a trim.
“It won’t grow back” I gently tell her.
Then I chance a look at hand-me-down Ted –
legs and arms of moulting fuzz
his glassy bead an eye job in need
jacket faded stuffing missing
and a button nose that’s seen better days…
…and I quietly go back to the ironing.
Child at the March © Catherine m Barnard
Thousands in the city street:
I meet a big dog with massive feet.
His master says he walks today
for many creatures who have no say
as to how they like their habitat.
So many people: I have my dad.
Someone parades as a polar bear;
their ice is melting, so I hear.
Parents with little kids hanging on;
we join the chant – it’s like a song.
All sorts of people with placards;
mine’s a huge green cardboard heart:
Save our beautiful earth!
The view from a balcony in Noosa
Upon holding a brand new person (womb-fresh and yawning)
Other poems selected by the judge to appear in the anthology – poets listed alphabetically:
Things to do in the belly of a whale
Ride with Chesterton
If Dogs Were Horses
Tru S Dowling
Orange Rope Walk
Ghosts and Dreams
Close Your Eyes
The Crabapple Tree
Sun Dried Tomato