Fire and Ice

by Sequoia Taylor, Redlynch State College, Cairns

Winter kisses me gently
when I’m warm in my bed,
Mother and Father are in the other room
small whispers and peace fill my ears.

Winter kisses me gently
when I’m in my golden star coat,
The other girls at school stare at me funny
but I don’t mind.

Winter kisses me gently
when I’m in the carriage out,
Mother assures me that we are okay
but I can’t seem to find Father.

Winter kisses me gently
when we are lining up,
Many people seem scared
but I remain strong.

Winter bites my skin harshly
as we stand on the parade grounds,
Mother holds my hand tightly
but I know that it’s her who’s more comforted.

Winter bites my skin harshly
the men yell at us to line up for showers,
Mother passed not long ago
but it still feels like she’s here.

Winter bites my skin harshly
I’m stripped in a small room with too many people,
a terrible smell arises
and I’m not sure I’ll make it.

Winter kisses my body softly
we are no longer one,
it is shoved into fire
burning and blistering.

 

Judge's Report 

?Rachael Briggs

While the entries addressed a variety of subjects, from race relations to procrastination to ducks in the park, there were a few themes that showed up with striking regularity: the pain of bullying; fear of death; praise for Australian soldiers; the Holocaust; and, for some reason, trees.  Reading these poems reminded me vividly of how hard it was to be a teenager: feeling at the mercy of other people's opinions, and having to come to terms with the ugly realities of death and historical injustice.  So I'd like to commend everybody who found a way to turn their pain into a poem, as well as everybody who has found something beautiful, happy, or funny to turn into a poem.

But to make a truly excellent poem, it takes more than a good subject.  You have to say something new about that subject, and you have to use language in a way that surprises, delights, or dazzles.  So it's no surprise that the winning entries varied widely in theme and topic.  (In fact, one of the winning entries expressed a philosophical viewpoint that I personally disagree with.)  What these poems had in common was their high level of poetic craft.  These poems incorporated devices that went beyond rhyme, and included rhythm, repetition, imagery, sonics, pacing, metaphor and character.  Many poems glimmered with a striking image, an original turn of phrase, or a captivating dramatic moment, but the ones I've chosen as winners shone in many different rhetorical colours.

Winning Poem

Many of this year's entries address the Holocaust, but Fire and Ice is exceptional for the thoughtfulness and subtlety that it brings to its theme. The author uses a variety of literary devices to tell the story of a young Jewish girl in Nazi Germany.  For example, the character's social relationships are revealed through gestures: her classmates stare to indicate her their mistrust of her Jewishness; her parents whisper, out of love and thoughtfulness, to avoid waking her up; her mother clutches her hand in the concentration camp out of love and fear.  The poem also makes good use of symbolism, with the increasing cold of winter (emphasised through repetition) representing the escalating cruelty of Nazi Germany.  The Holocaust is both an important subject, and a difficult subject to write about, so I am happy to see it treated with the care it deserves.


2nd-Place Poem

I'm an atheist, and most religious poetry leaves me cold, but How to be a God really captured my attention.  The God of the poem is a sympathetic character--a sort of giant human parent who wants the best for their children, but is frustrated by their own limitations.  I was impressed by the author's decision to phrase the poem entirely as a set of second-person instructions.  This made the language feel lively and immediate, and also made me wonder who the speaker could be be: perhaps an older and more experienced god.

3rd-Place Poem

This poem, which presents a forest scene using the senses of touch, taste, and smell, impressed me with its simple phrasing and lively imagery. The poet also displays an impressive understanding of pacing by leading with the speaker's heightened senses, and waiting until the end of the poem to reveal that the speaker is blind.  The title, which is the most important line in a poem, is put to good use: the poem is called Kaleidoscope, a word for a device that uses mirrors to create beautiful, colourful images for the sense of sight.

Highly Commended

We Were Freaks draws the reader into a tricky middle ground between sympathy and suspicion.  The poem is obscure concerning plot details: who the narrators are, what makes them freaks in the eyes of their peers (though the poem hints that they may be vampires), the nature and severity of their retaliation.  This mystery is more interesting than a straight story could have been: it's fascinating to try and work out exactly how reliable the narrator is.  And despite the plot fuzziness, key emotional features of the situation come through loud and clear: the pain of ostracism, the joy of finding people who are weird in the way that you yourself are weird, the (not entirely trustworthy) feeling of anger at outsiders.  This poem paints an accurate picture of an emotional landscape that will be familiar to many teenagers, and to many people who have lived through being teenagers.

Upcoming Events

Teacher event - external assessment

The second series of pre-external examination events will be held for teachers on Saturday 7 August as a face-to-face event and online. Recorded materials will remain available to all participants online until the examination week in October. The program for the morning will address: Learnings to date: messages from QCAA, Adv...

Category: Seminar
Start Time: 9:00 AM
Date: Saturday 7th August 2021
Venue: St Laurence's College
Phone Enquiries: 0455464000
Email Enquiries:  adminofficer@etaq.org.au


Darling Downs Branch presents

The Darling Downs Branch will present Everything about the external exam on Wednesday 11 August from 3:30 to 5:30pm.  Join us for an afternoon to reconnect with English colleagues, engage in discussion and explore ideas on how to prepare students for the external exam.
The afternoon will commence with Kathleen Hannant, Head of Engl...

Category: Workshop
Start Time: 3:30 PM
Date: Wednesday 11th August 2021
Venue: Toowoomba SHS
Email Enquiries:  adminofficer@etaq.org.au
venue information: Venue is Toowoomba State High School Performing Arts Centre
   Enter via Stuart Street Parking halfway up driveway on left
   PAC is also on the left next to the car park.


Grammar PD term 3

To assist attendees to develop their understandings of grammar in order to fully comprehend and to effectively teach the Australia Curriculum: English (AC:E), a further session will be held on Saturday 28 August at a venue (to be announced) in the metropolitan area.  Download the flyer for further details. If your school is inter...

Category: Workshop
Start Time: 9:00 AM
Date: Saturday 28th August 2021
Venue: TBA
Email Enquiries:  adminofficer@etaq.org.au


Student event - external assessment

Flexible modes  of delivery will allow you and your students to engage with the materials at a time that suits you.  Once again this event will be fully online to cater for all members and their students. This year the materials will come to you live in the afternoon of  Wednesday 8 September and again in the morning of Saturda...

Category: Student (and teacher) Event
Start Time: 3:00 PM
Date: Wednesday 8th September 2021
 Repeating On specific dates
Venue: Online
Email Enquiries:  adminofficer@etaq.org.au


Pre-service teachers present

Townsville branch will present EMBEDDING INDIGENOUS PERSPECTIVES IN AUSTRALIAN SHORT STORY UNIT. by a group of pre-service teachers on Saturday 16 October 2021 from 9 am till 11 am.

See the flyer for more details. Registrations will open on 1st September.

Category: Seminar
Start Time: 9:00 AM
Date: Saturday 16th October 2021
Venue: Online
Email Enquiries:  adminofficer@etaq.org.au


< Previous | 1 | 2 | Next >
View all

English Educator of the week

View all

Blog Feed

Grammar myths

Sep 12 2017
An edited version of the letter below was pu...

Impact on learning

Sep 12 2017
The following letter was submitted to The Au...
Read all

Connect to a great range of people who are passionate about English and have their finger on the pulse.

Be Connected