Results of Competitions held by SWWV in 2012
Last Updated: 29/12/2012
See Results for: | Non-fiction | Poetry | Short Story |
|SWWV Christmas Competition
||The Competition was judged by Joan Ackland
and she has provided some very helpful
comments that are full of good advice for all writers.
Joan's comments are printed beside each entry but if you would like to read Joan's report in its entirety, click here. 2012 Christmas Competition judge's comments.
|First Prize: Len and the Rickshaw by Janice Williams||
Joan Ackland, Shirley Whiteway and Janice Williams
Of all seven entries in this category this piece leapt out from the others as the obvious winner.
From the very beginning this memoir was totally engaging, the narrative easy to read and flowing along, with just sufficient detail to make the scene come vividly alive. Light-hearted in tone, the piece was leavened by gentle wit, with not a little irony behind its marital affection. Superbly written, this little piece says far more than it actually states, and in a way that will strike a chord with many readers. Congratulations!
Second Prize: Treasure Cave by Janice Williams
Second Prize: Treasure Cave
Though relatively short, and perhaps even somewhat slight, the power and charm of this work lies in the way it is written from a child’s perspective, the child voice being well maintained throughout a simple, yet engaging narrative that holds one’s attention right to the end. I deem this a small, but finely polished gem!
|Third Prize: La Moreneta by Linda Blackshaw
Third place goes,
rather sadly, to La Moreneta.
I say rather sadly, because the story is immensely engaging. It is spoiled however by a number of glaring faults which destroy its impact. There are, for example, awkward changes of tense, from past to present and vice versa, for no apparent reason. Likewise from singular to plural verbs not consistent with their subject. There is also confusion, typographical error perhaps, between ‘of’ and ‘off’, and other similar grammatical errors which may be due to ignorance, or perhaps just lack of that careful re-reading and editing I mentioned earlier. The power of this story deserves better! And I can only urge you all to take heed and make sure your work is as perfect as possible before you present it publicly. In this case, our competition. For as a Society of Women Writers we should always aim for the highest possible professional standard in what we produce!
These days of course we’ve come a long way from the formal concept of poetry, entailing rhyme and a stanzaic structure - to the extent that poetically written prose pieces are often referred to as prose poems. And some alleged poetry we see printed in our daily papers is, in fact, little more than chopped up prose, without a even a vestige of poetic form, use of language, or even feeling in them.
Which leads me to ask, what do I look for in a poem! Certainly not just that old concept of a rhymed and stanzaic piece of writing!
Well, firstly, something that engages my imagination and has a freshness to it, with words, rhythms, tone and form that complement the content. As should its sound – what I call the poem’s music. For we should never forget that poetry had its origin as an aural art – designed to aid the memory!
Just as importantly, I need to have my emotions stirred, my senses gratified and my mind engaged in such a way that I will ponder the poem’s subtleties long after I’ve read or heard it.
And of course to do all this the poem employs words. Words which need to be appropriate to, as well as enhance both the mood and the content of the poem. Moreover, these words must be set down in such a way that they create their own verbal music – that rhythmic flow and patterning which distinguish the poem from prose. Though I must say that these characteristics are also present in the best prose poems!
In the best poems, and prose poetry, the words used will, of course, also set up resonances that expand our awareness beyond their obvious statement. To put it another way: a poem should be in the kind of language that says more, and says it more intensely, than does the every-day use and arrangement of words.
And here arrangement becomes important. For the effectiveness of a poem’s words depends, to a large extent, on the way they are set down: the rhythm of the lines, line length, the positioning of stressed words and such stanzaic arrangement as may be used. Likewise, the use of rhyme can be a compelling tool when used with discretion, and is not merely sing-song!
All that is of course no more than the nuts and bolts of the poet’s art. But in judging poetry I am always mindful that the best poetry rarely, if ever, results from a determination to write it. It is always an inspirational thing: both inspired in its origin, and inspiring to those receiving it, so that we come away, seeing things with new eyes!
And one more point: in poetry, perhaps more than in any other category of writing, that old adage I’ve already quoted, that less is more, most certainly applies!
First Prize: Country Morning by Marguerite Kisvardai
Marguerite Kisvardai (Varday)
A mere thirteen lines long, this finely crafted little gem is deceptively simple, its evocation of the titular country morning being so clear and vivid, and so true to life that we seem to experience what the poet is describing. But its power is not just that lovely scene, it is the sense evoked in the last two lines of life going on and on, forever seeking its source of nourishment. Thus, what has seemed a simple description is transformed into profound contemplation of the meaning of life. This is a truly great and thought-provoking little poem! Congratulations!!
|Second Prize: Secondhand Bookshop by Janice Williams||
Here a fixed rhyme and
stanzaic form are not merely a meaningless employment of a somewhat
archaic form. They are an organic element of the poem, projecting the
actual subject of the poem, which is, in fact, the past and its literature.
This neat twist is of course captured in the ‘Second-hand’
of the title! All its nostalgia and reflections on past events are
nicely countered, bringing any sentimentality up short with a neatly
comic twist in the concluding stanza.
|Third Prize: Listening to War Poems as I Garden by Lorraine McGuigan||
The juxtaposition here of tersely, but vividly evoked familiar war-time images and the tranquil notion of gardening, with all its lovely life-force is not only powerful, it is intensely thought-provoking and disturbing - the present tense not only emphasizing the current truth of events, but our own involvement in, and responsibility for such terrors as the poem depicts. Compact and almost prosaic in its description, this is poetry of the most forceful and chilling kind. A powerful work indeed, and that of of true poet!
|Commended: Yarriambiack Creek January 2011 by Judith Green||
As with the Short Story category, there were many poems of very high standard, two of which I felt compelled to commend.
What seems at first a simple description of a creek in flood gradually becomes a history of its past, and beyond that, the primeval existence of what we only too often see as our commonplace surroundings. In this way that seemingly simple description becomes both a philosophic contemplation and a virtual hymn of praise for the everlasting glories of our all too ephemeral world.
This is a lovely and quite profoundly thought-provoking poem.
|Commended: The Celebrant by Maree Silver
Joan and Maree Silver
This brief, tersely stated little poem packs an enormous emotional punch, with a quite terrible and thought-provoking conclusion which arouses both sympathy for the subject and amazement, even anger that anyone should be put in such a situation. Altogether a quite disturbing poem that sets us wondering about the justice of life.
In conclusion, I must say that the high standard of all the poems I’ve discussed, and indeed others that almost made the cut, is indeed cheering and points to a rich future for our women poets. And for our Society! Moreover it has made my judging a most enjoyable experience.
For which I thank you all.
The best entries here not only engaged my mind and imagination, they were also sensually evocative and had a considerable emotional impact.
There was also a freshness about them, with a sense of creative energy and empathy with the subject, so that some were lively, vigorous and plot-driven, while others were quietly reflective and atmospheric. All of which indicates the rich capabilities of our members! For while there are no actual rules to short story writing, what you put down should always be relevant to your tale, and sufficiently engaging, with some kind of
climatic point to give it shape and purpose before it leads on to its conclusion. In other words, the old notion usually applies, of having an engaging beginning to get the reader in, an exposition of events leading on to an end, which, as I said regarding non-fiction, may be either final in effect, or open-ended, leaving the reader to form his own conclusion.
Above all though, the story must be compelling, and written in language that is both engaging and relevant to the subject, while it also enhances the mood and atmosphere the author wishes to evoke.
|First Prize: To the Bitter End by
Joan and Veronica Schwarz
First place in this category I awarded to To the Bitter End.
This well-known historically based tale immediately draws the reader in by starting at the end of a trial, the reason for which we are about to learn as the tale progresses. Written in terse and compelling language, the beginning vividly evokes a terrible situation, followed by a powerful narrative thrust that becomes more and more emotionally moving as it drives towards its inevitable conclusion. Familiar as the facts of this story are, they are retold here in a most engaging and authoritative way. Something not easy to do. Indeed, this is a quite splendid piece of writing! Congratulations!
|Second Prize: Good Advice
by Veronica Schwarz
Second place I awarded to Good Advice. This most original subject reflects an all-too-prevalent reality in today’s world, by getting inside the mind of a sex predator. All the more powerful by being simply told, it is not only quite hypnotically engaging, it has a nice and satisfying twist at the end. Another piece written with considerable authority.
|Third Prize: Angels are blond by Janice Williams||
Third place goes to Angels are Blond.
Vividly evoking the terror of an earthquake, the strength of the tale lies in the sense of physical disorientation and confused feelings that are captured as we follow the experience of the male protagonist. Well imagined and tellingly written, it is perhaps a little too drawn out, thereby losing considerable impact, and seeming to fade away at the end. The old adage applies: ‘Less is usually more!’ Apart from its undue length I found this an engaging tale.
|Commended: Buying Time by Meryl Brown Tobin||
Meryl Brown Tobin
The overall standard of entries in this Short Story category was such that I felt obliged to commend two further pieces.
The first of these, Buying Time, is a somewhat slight piece so far as length is concerned. But, as I’ve just noted, it is quality, not size that matters! And the fine writing here was not only authoritative and totally engaging, it had a delightfully comic twist at the end.
|Commended: The Stolen Kiss by Paula Wilson||
Joan and Paula Wilson
The second piece I commended was The Stolen Kiss – a simple and perhaps over-obvious tale of a woman reflecting on a past event in her life, the strength of the story lying in its vivid evocation of place and atmosphere. We are, however, left wondering about the impact her reflections might have on her present life – something that could have been hinted at, thus giving the story greater power. The reason for this little failure is the flash-back form in which the remembered event is enclosed by brief present-time statements – always an awkward form to make work successfully. Apart from this, it is a fine work.
My congratulations to all the authors of these stories. Overall, the standard of entries in this category was relatively high, with most stories both engaging and reasonably well told, though some were perhaps over-ambitious, some a little melodramatic, with others being weak and inconclusive at the end. Some – far too many - also lacked editing, with spelling errors and unforgivable grammatical inconsistencies.
Good writing, remember, takes work and care as well as inspiration!
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KATHRYN PURNELL POETRY PRIZE 2012
Judged by Kristin Henry
Judith Green (Victoria)
For: 'Comfort Zones'
Judith Green, First Prize Winner
Gail Hennessy (NSW)
like to thank the Society of Women Writers
Victoria for inviting me to judge this year’s Katherine Purnell Poetry
Prize. I also want to congratulate you on the high standard of the
entries. And because the overall quality of the submissions was so good,
I didn’t find the judging an easy job.
judging process goes like this: the first time I read a poem I put it
into one of two piles – NO or MAYBE. But with this lot, by the time I had read
through the fifty submitted poems my ‘maybe’ stack was so big it
didn’t mean anything. I
had to be much more critical with the next read through.
most of the poems showed skill, and many were really fine. Common themes
included memory, ageing, home, creativity and the sheer joy of being
was no shortage of arresting first lines. However, one of the
disappointments with some of the otherwise very good poems was a weak
ending. So often I wished I could pretend I hadn’t noticed the final
stanza or the last line and could just concentrate on whatever it was in
the poem that had captivated me. The main fault was a tendency for the
poet to go on long after she had said what needed to be said, including
something not necessary to the poem and so finishing with an
anti-climax, or to summarise what had gone before.
other recurring problem was with confusing punctuation. I have
deliberately avoided saying ‘correct’ punctuation, because in poetry
this is not necessarily as hard and fast a concept as it is with prose.
Think of Emily Dickenson. Many poets have a very idiosyncratic approach
to punctuating, and yet they still send a message to their reader about
how they want a poem to be read. I don’t believe this is always
something you can look up in your Strunk and White. So for me, if I felt
I understood the poet’s intention I didn’t quibble.
are aspects of technique which have formed the basis of lots of
workshops over the years. I wanted to take a minute to explain this
because, first of all, it might be helpful to you in the future. And
second, I wanted you to know I’m not just flattering you about the
standard of the entries. Most of what ended up in the ‘no’ pile were
good poems let down by one of these two common problems.
said all that, I want to stress that the poems I selected were real
standouts rather than winners by default.
the honourable mentions:
Change of Season
is a beautiful light-filled poem about a house and a friendship in which
the changing nature of light and shadows is more than just the key
element in a sensory description of rooms; it becomes a melancholy
comment on change itself.
is a photographic revisiting of a wartime family love story. Its
evocative period detail and loose whimsical rhyming make this poem a
delight for the senses.
Gifts from Sleep
one made me laugh in recognition. The poet uses the metaphor of bright fishes slithering from her hand to describe something
everyone in this room is familiar with - the dream poem that got away
when we woke up, and the good idea that disappeared with over-editing.
President Shirley Whiteway with Rebecca Maxwell and Kristen Henry
Judith Green with Kristen Henry
is a metaphorical poem about the journey life takes us on. But that
description doesn’t do it justice. As is usually the case, if a poem
can be summarised in prose, it probably isn’t a very good poem. This
one tracks the very human paradox of desire. We want to be safe, yet our
curiosity forces us to stretch ourselves beyond our safe places, in
order to try and grasp something beckoning but indistinct, while ‘fear
and wonder play tag within me’.
is an intriguing enough theme. But I responded to this poem in a
visceral way before I even felt I understood what it was saying. It was
the rhythm that got me. Compelling, almost Whitmanesque.
The lines are long. The first sentence is twelve lines long. We
have to wait suspended for eight lines before we get to the verb!
here the poet has again made good use of contrast, this time
technically. Images are piled one on top of the next with relentless
urgency until we are pulled up short by the surprisingly still ending.
are also frequent strategic repetitions of key words
which enhance that sense of building toward some kind of
resolution. The lines are dense with pictures. It’s a poem that
rewards re-reading. It’s a poem that deserves to be read aloud. It’s
a poem that deserves to win the 2012 Katherine Purnell Poetry Prize.
Competitions held in other years
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