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2021 Poetry Results

Poetry Competition

2021 'Poetic Licence' Poetry Competition

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

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In this 10th year of Scribes Writers’ annual poetry competition, the 97 entries across both categories once again succeeded in surprising and entertaining the judges with a challenge to decide prize winners from amongst the contenders.
As always, we conferred beforehand to set standards for each category with only those poems meeting those standards making it to consideration for the short lists. To this end, each poem was read twice: the first time to absorb the poem as a whole, the second for technical quality. The importance of the poem’s title was also noted, as it is the banner for your work, and must add something to it.
All poetry is communication, so the eventual short lists both had several important things in common:  originality and freshness, exceptional use of language, clarity of purpose and the avoidance of clichés and overblown phrases. Finally, and most important of all, was the poem’s impact, causing it to stay in the readers’ minds long afterwards.
Most important of all, and cannot be expressed firmly enough, is the caution of choosing well-trodden ground as your subject unless you bring a new slant to the conversation. If you revisit commonly chosen subjects, such as climate change, sexual abuse, the pandemic, returned soldiers, outback settlers, but fail to bring a fresh perspective to the conversation, then you risk missing out.

Traditional Verse

This category covers many different styles, several of which are represented in this competition. Each style has its own unique requirements of rhyme, rhythm, repetition and structure so it’s vital to check those out before you begin crafting your poem. Failure to meet these makes for potholes and speed bumps instead of smooth flow when the work is read aloud, as all poetry must be. Have someone experienced read it back to you so you can hear any blips. We all suffer from author blindness now and then. Beyond that, avoid the trap of dodgy rhymes just to get the mechanics right, thus spoiling the quality of the work.

First PrizeSonnet Set in Time by David Atkinson.
(Can be viewed here)
One of those rare poems where not a single word can be added or subtracted to improve it, this left a definite footprint in the judges’ minds, drawing us back again and again. Many of the words are single syllable, mimicking when read aloud the shallow breathing of the young lad’s shock at learning of his mother’s death long-distance. A pleasure to read.

Second PrizeWheels Upon the Bitumen  by James Kent.
(Can be viewed here)
Almost the complete opposite in expression from the previous poem, this is 4 line verses of rhyming couplets detailing the tedium of long-haul trucking. The use of language is exceptional, revealing a simmering anger riding just beneath the driver’s taking us along on his journey. The book-ending of the opening and closing verses complete the sense of inner fury revealed in the words chosen. The only thing to mar it is a small pothole of a missing syllable at the beginning of L2 of V2. Well done.

Highly CommendedA Lockdown Love Song   by Janeen Samuel.
A highly amusing take on the subject of lockdown, the poet has rejected a former lover from her doorstep, assigning him a different persona for each of his listed infidelities and sending them all packing. Highly entertaining, as is the use of a volta, a change in the structure – a 6-line verse in the middle of 4 line verses signaling a turning point. An interesting device, well employed.

CommendedSuburban Opera  by Isabel Haqqani.  
A Petrarchan sonnet form, this tells of birds on a church rooftop performing their daily rituals, the poet imbuing their behavior with the performance of a tragic opera by using florid language to describe it. A switch in metric pattern a few lines in, mars the flow but the overall effect is entertaining.  

CommendedPlane Trees  by Lisel Herrmann.
A nature poem, observing the effect of the seasons on the avenue of trees. Beautifully expressed, it is sadly marred by the 4th and 5th lines from the end missing each missing a syllable. Otherwise well executed.

Free Verse

In this category, attention was given to the flow and overall impact of the message, with
particular focus on the line breaks. These are the de facto punctuation of the poem and while enjambment is accepted, ending a line with a hanging conjunction – for, and, yet, so, but, where, when, etc – is the equivalent of putting a full stop in the middle of a sentence, breaking it in half and spoiling the flow. Care needs to be taken to break the line at end of a phrase, not in the middle of it.
All good poetry should leave a footprint in the reader’s mind, something which stays with them long afterwards. Each of the awarded poems did just this by inviting the reader to step up beside them, sharing the experience first-hand and drawing their own conclusions.

First Prize –  Gift by Yvonne Deering.
(Can be viewed here)
A charming poem, carrying us along with the poet as she shares her delight at the gift of her first sight of snow at Christmas. This is one of those rare poems where changing any word, adding or subtracting any, would spoil the effect. Well worthy of first prize.

Second PrizeThere's Rosemary   by Janeen Samuel.
(Can be viewed here)
A compelling poem which carries us with the author on a journey down through a garden, the mood deteriorating from objective to deeply sad as the walk continues. Intrigued, we follow along, only to be brought up short with the final 3-line verse which needs no explaining. Rosemary is for remembrance The elegance of the lack of personal detail is riveting, marred only by a poor line break partway through. Otherwise beautifully done.

Highly Commended –  Washing Day  Burra 1896  by Helen Hutton.
An unusual detailing of the mind-numbing work of a country housewife of the era. The poem opens with a literary reference to Aurora, but there it ends. The bleakness of her is detailed as she carries out her chores alone, while keeping young children from danger as she goes. It’s the riveting final line which sets the seal, making this so memorable as she approaches the final pegging out of the wash:
“No room left to hang her dreams.” Well done.

Commended –  Jill   by Denise Parker.
An unusual rendition of a memorial, this brings the character in the title vitally alive to the reader so we feel as if we knew her. Well-executed

Commended —  The Spider  by Otto Fischer.
A simple poem, it charms the reader with the challenge to consider this small arachnid constructing its web in a gale as fearless as the explores Scott and Columbus in their determination to conquer and prevail. Thought-provoking for such a simple poem, well done.

The judges would like to thank all entrants for trusting us with your work. To all whose names are missing from the awards list, please remember that any response to poetry must carry some personal response and thus comes down to the judges’ choices. Consider checking over your poem to be sure it is the best it can be and submit it elsewhere for a more favourable result. Above all, never give up working at improving your skills.

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