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2019 Poetry Results

Poetry Competition

2019 'Poetic Licence'  Poetry Competition

Judges Report & Results
(Full List of Award Winners can be accessed here.)

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The  task of reading through the 126 entries for the poetry competition and selecting the twelve best was a daunting and challenging exercise. The subjects presented were as diverse as the poets themselves, ranging from trapping rabbits to watching the moon from the window of a city hotel, from mushrooms to climate change. Some wrenched the heart while others made us smile, all were given careful consideration. But there must always be a winner and runner-up, Commended and Highly Commended for those on the eventual short list, so a set of standards was applied in making the final selections. The qualities sought for by the judges were exceptional use of language, imagery presentation, attention to line breaks in free verse and structure in traditional verse. It was also important that there was a point to the narrative, resisting the temptation to wander off course. Where well-trodden ground was covered, we looked for freshness of approach, along with plenty of dreaming room, inviting the reader to bring their own experiences to the listening. Showing rather than telling, all adding to the finished poem’s impact on the reader, the successful ones contained all these and more, remaining in the mind long after the poem was finished.  

Traditional Verse

Traditional verse covers many different styles – ode, sonnet, quatrain, villanelle, to name a few – each requiring its own particular structure, so it is vitally important for the poet to check those requirements before setting off on the journey. A failure to meet the rhyme, rhythm and repetition standards set for each means causes potholes and speed bumps. It is like watching a ballet only to see the prima ballerina stumble and trip, or listening to music, only to hear someone strike a flat note. A perfectly written traditional verse, whatever its chosen form, is a delight to read.

First Prize – A Solution To Our Problems  by Janeen Samuel.
(Can be viewed here)
This highly unusual approach to solving the issue of climate change, along with one of the downsides of social media for our children, was thoroughly entertaining. Reminiscent of C J Dennis’s The Sentimental Bloke, this marvelously executed verse never faltered in its use of the Aussie vernacular. Rhyme, rhythm and structure were flawless, not an easy task with such hurdles to clear. A well-deserved first.

Second Prize – The Light of Day   by David Atkinson.
(Can be viewed here)
A powerful villanelle dealing with a boy’s conflicted emotions in the trapping of rabbits. Filled with powerful imagery, and using the taut phrasing showing the pain of hearing throughout the night a living creature’s slow death, then dealing with the aftermath the next day, these are beautifully portrayed. A poem with great emotional impact, all the more effective for being so beautifully understated. Well done.

Highly Commended – Charlie by Rhonda Rice.
A delightfully amusing tale of the arrival in the household of a playful new puppy, much to the annoyance of the resident cat. The poem narrates the battle for hierarchy that ensues, with its touching outcome. A refreshing approach to an old subject, well-handled.

Highly Commended – An Empty Chair by Jenny Macaulay.
A delicately handled tale of watching a loved one’s acceptance of approaching demise, carried out with a flawless chain-link pattern of rhyme often used in sonnets. Understated, using gentle images, it is only as the poem progresses that the reader becomes aware of the finality approaching. Well done.

Commended – The Man who Came To Dinner by Kevin Pye.  
An excellent example of a bush verse in its structure, this poem tells of a man relating to his son, the story of his grandfather’s exploits in the Battle of the Kokoda Trail and the ‘fuzzy wuzzy angels’ who aided them. The rhyme, rhythm and structure of this form is perfectly executed, the narration flows like honey, it is still a delight to read, well-deserving of a Commended.    

Commended – Among the Dead by David Campbell.
A heart-rending account of watching a loved one fading away in care at the end of her life, and her son’s anguish at watching and caring but unable to intervene. Flawlessly executed in a chain-link rhyming pattern, and with powerful use of imagery, it transmits the emotions so well-known to many of us who have experienced it. Written with such impact, it certainly deserves its Commended award.  


Free Verse

The selection of a first among equals in a free verse competition is a tough call requiring much consultation between the judges, and a set of agreed standards before beginning. These were originality of subject matter, freshness of approach, tightness of writing, avoiding overblown phrases, musicality and flow, and a clarity of purpose. But by far the most important of these is the attention to line breaks. To not craft the line breaks to perfection is to risk straying dangerously close to chopped-up prose. Line breaks are the de facto punctuation of all good free verse. To end a line with a hanging preposition (on, at, in, from, etc) or a conjunction (and, or, but, of, etc) is like putting a full stop in the middle of a sentence. A well-written free verse takes flight, employing all the above, and is a pleasure to both read and hear.

First Prize –  Reading in a Maldon Cafe   by Judith Green.
(Can be viewed here)
This beautifully crafted poem is a marvelous example of the use of imagery to call the reader to come and sit beside the poet, to see and hear and feel what the poet does. We are tucked into this snug table along with poet, huddled over a book, hiding out from this blustery winter day, while the life of the rest of the world carries on around us. The word choices, the layout of the poem on the page, the unusual pattern of line breaks denoting the rhythm of the cafe, all contribute to this success in communication which is the hallmark of an excellent poem. This is dreaming room at its very best employment. Well done.

Second Prize – Full moon in a city motel   by Anne Benjamin.
(Can be viewed here)
The beauty of this poem lies as much in its simplicity as it does in its use of language. Deceptively simple words used, yet they carry an assonance which whispers to the reader, lulling them with the peace the poet experiences. The musicality of the flow slows the pulse as we read, and we are drawn to the poet’s side to share her experience. It is a rare talent to achieve this with such a simple and familiar topic as gazing at the moon, yet it brings such freshness to the subject the reader is drawn in. Such is dreaming room. Not a word could be added or removed to improve it. Well done.

Highly Commended –  Events by John Egan.
Another deceptively simple poem, yet it is perfect in its execution of an equally simple subject – a pared-down daily pattern to suit a life simplified by an unspoken set of circumstances. The reader is led to understand this has been a hard-won state of affairs, but one in which the poet now has found a form of contentment. Short, to suit the tenor of the subject, it is well-deserving of its award.

Highly Commended – Prayer Stool by Denise O'Hagan
A most unusual take on the age-old subject of the crisis of faith many face in church life today, this poem brings a fresh approach to what could potentially be well-trodden ground. Beginning with the unlikely setting of a roadside clean-up, to the last line posing a question for which there is no answer, this poem is a pleasure to read. No poetic devices, just a challenge to the reader’s intellect. Well done.

Commended –  Wild Chanterelles  by David Terelink.
A lively poem, it lures the reader into seeing wild mushrooms in a whole different light. A tumble of imagery, typical of the subject matter, it portrays these delicious little fungi in a very different way, making the judges smile. A definite pleasure to read.

Commended —  The Refugee  by Elizabeth Wilde.
A sparse, poignant poem, of such simplicity and starkness of expression, it beautifully conveys the despair and horror that shortens the breath of this person trapped by a desperate flight for freedom cut short. Not a word could be added or one removed or changed to improve it, the layout on the page adds to the overall impact. Beautifully done.     

With such a rich offering of poems on so widely differing an array of subjects and approaches, choosing the order of winning poems is always difficult and finally comes down to the judges’ opinions, so if you were unsuccessful, don’t despair. Revisit your work, consider some adjustments and submit it elsewhere for a hopefully better result.  

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