The winning entry is followed by the judge's report.
By Jess Vandersande, Boonah State High School
I swear she was born
with a piano at her fingertips.
Her life was a melody no one
bothered to write down,
but listened anyway.
I could catch her smile against
the ridges of my palm and
Hold it close, hide it away where
the world could not touch it
And I swear, she could hold please stay
with the tip of her tongue and could
Twist it into something
I swear her skin mapped out
the stars of a nighttime sky
Her spine, ridged, mimicking the
hollows of the moon, yet,
she was my sunset.
She rose and fell at my horizons
Laying claim to all illuminated by herself.
She was my unspoken forgiveness
My shaking hands and dampened cheeks
My rise and fall of restless lungs
The sinking weight of withheld words;
my love was an understatement, and
one I never failed to mispronounce.
planned our future in the past and
forgot that time doesn’t need to catch its breath
quite like we do.
Goodbye hit me like a beating and
I’m sorry was a line of bruises, littering
the very parts of me I saved for her,
wrapped in the ribbons of
what could have been
Held close in the fingers that curl over what was,
Knuckles white against one day, and
Hopes strung against the backdrop of I promise.
And I promise
this skin still burns under sunset’s touch and
splits under yesterday’s broken trust.
Her life was a melody I told myself
I could write down, only
I could never hold the notes of her
In a way that truly seemed to matter.
She was my someday, left
There was great variety in the poems submitted for Section A. I was impressed by their honesty and delight in language. Themes included love and friendship, identity, inner and outer worlds; some looked back to the certainties of childhood, and some set out into the unknown. In their various forms, they explored feeling and experience.
Sound is an important element of poetry, and the most successful poems were flowing and rhythmic, but without using rhyme. Some poems used rhyme successfully, but others were hampered by it. In my view it’s better not to rhyme than to let rhyme force you into awkward expression.
There was wonderful, vivid imagery, and this was a delight to read. Some poems achieved that seemingly-effortless slipping between idea and image, or between one sense and another, which is such a fine thing in poetry.
Poetry works best (again, in my view) with the immediate material of life, rather than abstraction, so it was good to see poems gathering in details of the poets’ lives, including birds, snakes, tattoos, quad bikes, mud flats and mangoes, as well as loss, religion, myth.
A few technical comments:
• “A poem should not mean, but be.” (Archibald MacLeish) A poem embodies meaning, but can go astray when it starts explaining it to us. The most successful poems avoided explanations and commentary.
• Some of the poems were closer to song lyrics than poems, and might work well as songs. But songwriting has different conventions, and a poem has less room for cliché, and wants more precision.
• Some poems began with a few lines where, I think, the poet was finding his/her way into the subject; often such lines are best pared away later, to reveal the true beginning of the poem.
Congratulations to all the poets. It was a pleasure and a privilege to read your work.
A few years ago, I wrote this little poem about a poetry competition:
Poetry Competition in an Olympic Year
some points will be awarded
for technical difficulty
in the chosen dive
but what the heart applauds
more than the twists and somersaults
is the pure line followed truly
finishing in deep water
with barely a surface splash
and an afterimage
Thank you for the chance to read your poems, whose “afterimages of flight” will stay with me.
6 September 2013