NEW VOICES - Emerging Poets Competition JUDGE’S REPORT, 2015
What a delight to be asked to judge the NEW VOICES! I have enjoyed every single poem that was entered in the competition because each one had something that made it special. The breadth of subject matter was vast, and the forms of poetry went from Rhyming iambic pentameter, right through to freeverse, with one poem, the first I’ve ever experienced, with footnotes as intricate and thoughtful as the poem itself.
I have to admit that I do like a poem that not only shows the technical craftsmanship of the poet, but also the sensitivity to communicate an event that I can become emotionally invested in. To this end, each of the poems selected as winners this year are not only cleverly crafted, but also affect the heart, while remaining firmly footed on solid ground and not flying off into the abstract, which is the risk that heartfelt poems can carry. I want to say to every writer of poetry submitted this year – Bravo! Long live the poet. But particularly to those shortlisted that it was very difficult to decide the winners from your group, and I know I have left some wonderful poems behind here, and I want to congratulate you on making it to the top ten.
I am particularly interested to see how Murmur is read as it has a series of footnotes, that both inform and distract from the main poem, which I found rather disconcerting, but in a very interesting way. This is a tender poem, which is literally, about the heart. I enjoyed this poem very much.
Colour me true
Colour me true was a delight to read from start to finish, great characterisation and the cropped lines really worked, almost as a representation of the steps of the wobbly old man himself. Favourite lines: ‘he licks his lips to the tune of home,
the lines on his face rhyme to the sound of I miss you’
Second Place: Student Nurse
While reading this poem I transfixed by the wide-eyed student nurse with the brand new experiences, and I felt the emotion he/she was holding down under the weight of silence, and the consistent face of calm that is required of this kind of occupation.
The Student Nurse is a compassionate poem, which utilises figurative language to express modes of communication in unusual forms such as the eyes [that] swim backwards and forwards like a lost guppy, or the titanic groans of a man in striped pyjamas, or the woman who beckons me with swivelling eyes, or the tag tied to the big toe that does not really tell you who that person was.
The repetition of I’m 17 – they say I’m being trained for this, hammers in the need for de-sensitisation, yet the care of the nurse is overtly one of vulnerability, and courage.
WINNER: NEW VOICES – Emerging Poets Competition 2015: Native Rivalry
Native Rivalry is a touching and thought provoking response to the perceived ‘fall from grace’ of the modern Samoan, by an author who is clever enough to both draw us into the most private place of contemplation, while also maintaining the distance of observation – almost as if we are looking too, along with Savai’i, across the same waters that separate us from the debauchery noise of partygoers.
Yet the self-judgement is cushioned through the unique use of language, air-brushed by the rhythm of the line, the wit of the man (who) breathes Valima proposals to the girl who is not his wife, and perhaps dulled by the cocktails with names that sound like the devil’s temptations.
The subject matter of this poem is a bold critique, yet I am left with a sense of gentleness. As if the grandmother’s raspy throat grind were a warning, yet she did not spit on the sand. And right there, I can only believe, is the hope of a grandmother for her grandchild’s revelation.
I chose this poem as the winner because it is a beautiful poem, with layers I can ruminate on, and though I read this poem over and over, I never tired of it, in fact I always found a little something more to enjoy each time. It is a sharp observation, yet written with affection, and is very easy to love.
Rosetta Allan, August 2015.