The 2014 Divine Muses XI Poetry Reading: an evening of poetry was held at the Gus Fisher Gallery as part of this years National Poetry Day, Friday August 22nd.
Fellow poet and author Rosetta Allan, MC, introduced Chris Tse, Bob Orr, Peter Bland, Siobhan Harvey and Riemke Ensing who each read a selection of their own poems.
At the close of the evening, judge Bob Orr, announced the winners of the NEW VOICES Emerging Poets Competition for 2014. Runner up, Vishakham Joseph, and winner Josie Desmond who then read their poems.
Many thanks go to all this years poets, the competition entrants, the Gus Fisher Gallery for the venue,Pacific Frontiers and to Booksellers NZ for promoting poetry through their National Poetry Day programme.
NEW VOICES - Emerging Poets Competition JUDGE’S REPORT, 2014
Had I known how difficult this competition would be to judge I might well have had second thoughts about taking it on. I knew that it would never be an easy call because of the fact that poetry like all the arts is subjective in its appeal. What I didn’t count on was the extremely high standard of most of the poems submitted. That, and the fact that they spanned a wide range of poetic expression, from haiku to rap to free verse to traditional forms. Also included was a ‘concrete’ poem. If nothing else this competition provides a rich reflection on the country’s growing cultural diversity.
Facing the quandary of how to select the eventual winner I looked to find what I’ve always sought in any poem, regardless of its form length or subject matter, namely the awareness and appreciation that I’m in the presence of an authentic voice. One that revives the potency of words, one that takes the language of news reports and advertising and it gives it a good scrubbing. No matter if the poems spoke loudly or in a whisper – it was always an authentic voice that I was hoping to hear.
FIRST PRIZE Swimming - Josephine Desmond
This poem is carried off with great style and panache. Its title refers to the laps of a swimming pool but could also just as easily be the describing swimming in the sea of life. It’s sassy and sharp and street-wise. Tender and vulnerable but also tough. The confusions and apprehensions of puberty and gender recognition are expressed with a vitality that would render whole shelves of earnest social science research papers redundant. The poem struts its stuff with a great deal of linguistic confidence. The poet even invents a new word ‘gleary’. One that doesn’t appear in my dictionary but maybe in next year’s edition. The poet’s wariness of the adult world and its institutions and her expression there-of bore favourable comparison with passages of J.D. Salinger’s classic novel ‘The Catcher in the Rye’. In the last lines when the poet comes out on top I found myself cheering –
‘ faster than all the boys.
Plus an extra four laps. ’
SECOND PRIZE Initiation - Vishakham Joseph
The poet has chosen a subject that many would classify as morbid (the medical dissection of cadavers) and from this unusual core material created a poem that sings loud and clear with life affirmation. The poet records the lifeless corpses in language both accurate and matter of fact, rejecting the easy options of sentimentality or sensationalism –
‘ Skin the colour of curdled caramel, ‘
Some lines later describing scalpels etc the poet offers up a phrase worthy of Bill Manhire at his best -
‘ her hesitant silver instruments ’
As if to honour the opportunity the cadavers give us to know more about ourselves the poet exhorts us to –
‘ Always recall the memory of life
Vigorous, fervent, scarlet life, ’
Awarded Special Mention :
18-06-10 Linda Jane Keegan
For M.W. Madelaine Ballard
Nb To make ‘special mention’ of only two of the contributors seems rather paltry. . A great many of the poems submitted could just as easily been included.
Congratulations to all who entered.
Bob Orr, August 2014.
From Auckland, she went to Western Springs College. Currently in her second year of a Bachelor of Arts degree at Auckland University, with a major in English and a minor in Spanish. In her spare time she enjoys reading, playing guitar, swimming and playing water polo along with other social sports.
When we were little my big boy cousins
didn’t have to be gentle with me.
Roughie toughies, we used to call it.
But by the time I was seven I was definitely
A Girl. Wore dresses. And told I couldn’t swim as fast.
You haven’t finished. But I had.
Tears in goggles swim four more laps
because I couldn’t possibly have swum
one point five kilometres
as fast as the Boys.
Ten years old vanity in full gush because
Girls can’t have baggy t-shirts or short hair unless
it’s shaven for cancer.
Flitting around the Top Court in tight singlets
to show off all the chest
I didn’t yet have.
Not chest, but heart, as much as any Boy,
I had. Especially when we used to play
Tapawai on that same Top Court.
And by this stage it wasn’t just You, Teacher, or You,
Swim Coach who was telling me
that I couldn’t throw as far, swim as fast,
even though I was three inches taller than anyone.
By now the Boys were telling me this too.
Thirteen years old, still no chest and still three inches taller,
I am running along the slapping concrete
on a gleary Ponsonby morning.
Girls don’t have to keep up with the Boys.
Trying to decide what to Be. Because
the Sexy Girls seemed to get their way with the Boys
and the Sporty Girls didn’t
seem to get anything.
Sixteen years old, puberty done with me. Boys catching up.
Physics isn’t for Girls, but I didn’t give up P.E.
Anger at those flitty, flirty girls who “forgot their uniform”
but I probably flitted and flirted
just as much because that’s what Girls are meant to do.
Eighteen years old and thinking I could be pretty
or wanted to be.
Buying Diet Coke like Kourtney and Kim.
Having dreams of foreign places, fucked up spaces, faces
that will look at me, not into me
because my face is pretty, as I want it to be
and not because I can do Physics or think or write or swim
one point five kilometers
faster than all the boys.
Plus an extra four laps.
Second Prize 2014
Grew up in India, Christchurch and Whangarei. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree double majoring in English Literature and European Studies from the University of Auckland; and is currently in her second year of medical school at the same University. Over the years, her parents and teachers have supported her love of books, writing and the sciences.
The young initiate,
This fresh-faced medical student
The human anatomy lab.
A threshold that only the ‘privileged’ may cross,
That uneasy boundary beyond life.
The bodies of anonymous cadavers:
Skin the colour of curdled caramel,
Ripples over permanently stilled limbs.
She wonders what their voices, in life may have sounded like.
She is promised,
Knowledge beyond the value of textbooks,
It is a gift, they tell her.
But she softly hopes,
That her hesitant silver instruments
Scalpel, forceps, other strange implements
Never to blunt them into instruments of apathy.
Always recall the memory of life,
Vigorous, fervent, scarlet life,
That had once pumped through these bodies.
The weeks pass,
And something changes.
Knowledge and curiosity piqued,
A gentle appreciation for the silent, daily marvels within us,
The beauties of biology.
Despite the settling into routine,
Of this careful gloved procedure,
This will always be a sacred experience,
And you are never, never the same.
Every lab’s conclusion,
Still leads her to pursue the affirmation of life
In the way the sun lights up the leaves of trees,
And the vast bowl of the sky above.
Life seems more vivid,
When one spends time with the dead.