Results of 2017 Competition – Wonderment

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



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


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

warming soothing

young bodies

bather clad

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

Summer holidays

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,

of blackberries

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

I gasp:

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

lucid pupils

into warm womb wonder.

In time, beyond

that unborn place,

the acorn mysteries

form a moving


Wholesome seed memory

directs wise thought.

Heaven’s spirit.

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)

vigorously cutting

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!

Winners of the 2015 Poetica Christi Press Poetry Competition – Imagine

First Prize

Avril Bradley
The view from a balcony in Noosa

Second Prize

Cameron Semmens
Upon holding a brand new person (womb-fresh and yawning)

Other poems selected by the judge to appear in the anthology – poets listed alphabetically:

Mazzy Adams

Avril Bradley
Things to do in the belly of a whale

Victoria Carnell
Ride with Chesterton

Joy Chellew

Jennifer Chrystie
If Dogs Were Horses

Tru S Dowling
Orange Rope Walk

John Egan
Ghosts and Dreams

Jeff Guess

Don Helmore

Gillian Hunt
Moon orchids

Gillian Hunt
Palestine Dreaming

Janine Johnston

Fiona McIlroy

Jane McMillan

Jan Price
Close Your Eyes

Paul Scully
Waltzing Croydon

Christina Spry
Champagne Cocktail

Peter Stiles
The Crabapple Tree

Ron Thomas

Ron Thomas
Warrandyte Thoughts

Rachel Timmins
Sun Dried Tomato

Valerie Volk
In dreams

Bron Williams


Joy Chellew’s new book – “In Search of Peace – A journey from dismay to discovery”

Joy Chellew’s love of the Scriptures colours both her life and her poetry. In Search of Peace is testament to this love and her search for the perfect peace that only God can give. Joy’s poems bask in God’s blessings; her words walk in His strength; her perceptive insights reveal the power of God’s promises, comfort and constancy. In Search of Peace is rich with intent – to give God the glory.

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