by Kevin Gillam
True Colours by Audrey Molloy
The Old Couple by Julie Watts
Mrs Goodwin by Paula Jones
Recipe of Love by Mike Greenacre
Stay With Me by Brian Purcell
Eh, My Little One by Peter Jeffery
Remote and Regional WA Winner
Thinking Back to Boat Harbour by Fran Graham
Youth Incentive Winner
Summer Adoration by Mina Wallis
JUDGE’S REPORT 2017
“Love is patient, love is kind.”
“But what is this thing called love?”
“We are born of love, love is our mother.”
“Love is a fruit in seasons at all times.”
“If you love someone, set them free.”
“If music be the food of love, then play on.”
A sextet of quotes that address our central conundrum – why, how, where and what is love? Suffice to say that nearly all of the 210 entries for the 2017 Poetry d’Amour Competition made a claim to the notion of love, and given the word’s very wide usage in the English language, the themes of the writing were extremely diverse. But good poetry requires certain crucial aspects – sharp diction, engaging employment of metaphor, simile and imagery, integrated structure and, most of all, a palpable ‘voice’ which speaks off the page. The poems chosen as winners all contained these aspects, but it was a difficult to hone down from a list of 109 ‘possible’, to 59 ‘yes’, to 19 as ‘highly deserving’ and then into a final eight as prize recipients.
The First Prize winning poem “True Colours” by Audrey Molloy immediately engaged, with its sparking diction and dialogue. Lines such as “loose skin/a catalogue of blue leaks from within” and “like windows to a sea inside you” employ brilliant imagery, and the use of the central metaphors of light and water are tightly sewn throughout. Equally exact is the use of rhyme, aabb for each stanza, but impeccably woven so as not to draw attention. The mixture of humour and wisdom truly creates the picture of this “grey man” – a superb piece of writing and thoroughly deserving of top honours.
“The Old Couple” by Julie Watts is awarded Second Prize, and this is an entirely different piece of writing from “True Colours”. Here the text is sparse, almost bony, but consistently elegant and sharp. The metaphor of birds/seagulls is carefully deployed and the poem talks of small acts of intimacy and grace that provide a sustaining love. The final lines “together/and separate/ on the same wet shore.” closes the poem beautifully.
Highly Commended is awarded to “Recipe of Love” by Mike Greenacre, a poem that employs excellent use of form and a precise timing of details. The text closes in upon moments and events, almost camera-like, but then pulls back so as to embrace hindsight and overview. Evocative imagery is used throughout – “unchartered/roads of togetherness, filled/ with directions yet to come” – and the metaphor of driving and distance nurtures the poetic intellect throughout.
“Mrs Goodwin” by Paula Jones also receives Highly Commended. Here the stanzas are structured impeccably, and the narrative generates a real flow. Use of realism is crucial to the build up of tension, for example “carved quarry walls where rocks tumbled crumbs”, as are the period details such as “calico bib” and “town-best dress”. This is a deeply personal tale and the heldness of the mother character is mirrored in the restrained poetic voice and absence of emotive language.
The first Commended poem is written by Peter Jeffery. “Eh, My Little One” is in the form of a letter to a newly born. The voice is eloquent and the flow of thoughts beautifully rendered. For example, “tender tapestry of touch” and “They are changed and charged by you”. This is a very well crafted and engaging poem. Commended is also awarded to “Stay With Me” by Brian Purcell. This poem exhibits exemplary attention to rhythm and lining, with the repeated “Stay with me” creating an almost mantra-like feel. There is much sensory detail used, especially touch, which adds to the visceral feel of yearning and longing. Snippets of memory, for example “and times you raced through days and nights on car on motorbike/ to surprise me at Markwell and Green Point” add to lustre and impact.
The Regional and Remote WA Prize is awarded to “Thinking Back to Boat Harbour” by Fran Graham. This is a poem that contains carefully chosen and exact details of memory. All of the senses are engaged here – “She’s wearing your perfume” – and the poem continues to entrance with some wonderful imagery such as “the gate would be closed/ on our singular secret.” Taut and concentrated writing at it’s very best.
“Summer Adoration” by Mina Wallis receives the Youth Incentive Award for a poem that employs superb diction and imagery. The lines unfold to reveal all of the sways and tumbles of a bodily encounter, but never written in an overly lush manner.
Thank you to WA Poets Inc. for inviting me to judge this year’s competition, and congratulations to all of those poets with work included in the anthology. These sort of competitions and collections continue to confirm the importance of poetry as an artistic medium, and as a means of creating community.
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Good name for you, I think at first – ‘grey man’,
grey hair – once thickly black, now thinly wan,
steel eyes; your teeth off-kilter and off-white
and those grey eyebrows – very strange, but quite
fascinating. You say fuck the norm
and then we talk of love and Leonard Cohen.
You bring up Chelsea Hotel #2;
your cheek is pink now, your thoughts are blue.
I rise (adroit) and close the office door
so they don’t hear, and then we talk of more
love songs; your eyes have turned a sparkly blue,
like windows to a sea inside of you.
Your gaze is on my back when I make the tea,
“Which one were you again?” you shyly tease.
Which screen goddess, unsaid, but clearly heard
above the boiling kettle; my pupils flare
and from the corner of my eye I see
a spectrum where your shady form had been.
Is light refracted in my window frame?
I turn and stare but all is grey again.
Yet as I turn my back, I sense it there –
a rainbow on my ergonomic chair.
The penny drops; that’s not the goddamned sea!
It’s your true colors shown to me.
And through the tired cracks of your loose skin,
a catalogue of blues leaks from within.
Your moniker describes you errantly –
they should have named you for the sea.
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The Old Couple
they come down together
like old birds
make a nest of towels and beach
then separate –
I look up and he’s gone
probably wandering the shelled
and she has donned goggles
and snorkel and is heading out
her white hair bobbing like
over the tourmaline reef.
when he returns he will snorkel
and she will erect the striped
and read in her low white chair
later, they will sit in silence
and stare out across
the immense Indian ocean.
a long life of coupling
to become like gulls, together
on the same wet shore.
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Edie stopped the train with the boy on her hip
and the baby’s pram straddling the tracks,
her smooth left hand hard against the uphill sun.
She wore her town-best dress, the hem curling
like a wry smile as she squinted into distance
of scribbly gums and grass trees, solid cellar doors
and mottled brick hall a speck beyond the neat vines.
Patent black heels swirled dust as Edie stood terra-firma
against the Midland Train, slowed for the sharp turning
beyond the carved quarry walls where rocks tumbled crumbs.
The driver stopped the train, leaned his chest way out,
grey cap in hand, cigarette lost to the dry east wind,
and they hoisted Mrs Goodwin, the skinny boy and her infant
into the carriage, unruffled. ‘Most use the platform, Mrs!’
Time was too much to lose as they rode the train to town,
watched loggers by the tracks, white sheets on clothes lines,
and the boy waved to them as the baby sucked the calico bib
lulled to the rhythm of sleep.
At the army hospital a young doctor told her
he was waiting for them, and she straightened her dress,
fixed her hair and smudged the grime from the boy’s mouth
with her wet thumb, pinched her high cheeks and smiled
as her husband’s watery eyes lifted from the sunken steel bed.
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Recipe Of Love
At first just two teachers
thrown together side by side
in classrooms that
shared a concertina wall
as if a layer that peeled back
like a protective skin
allowing each other to mix
the common points of contact
from Murdoch study days
where we were two of only
forty lives to the music and tender
moments of flute and guitar.
But it was after sax lessons
that first lured me to your door
on a late night drive, straddling
the Swan River from south
to north, pursuing love
in it’s awkward moments
carrying with me the potion of
Kate Bush backing and massage
as leading lines of conversation
to break through unchartered
roads of togetherness, filled
with directions yet to come.
Now thirty years in the making
our love is a lifelong journey
with happy family turnings
in-between stretches in overdrive,
the recipe of love keeping hearts
still yearning side by side.
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Stay With Me
Stay with me your eyes nose lips everything in which I want to be
consumed and to be consuming
everything about you memorable inexplicable intelligible amused and confusing
Stay with me alone on the beach I close my eyes
——————– and sense the breeze move your hair against my face
Stay with me your eyes coal and diamonds your skin speckled ivory
——————- on which to play
Stay with me, stay
Stay with me holding my face in your hands while I bite your curls
Stay with me walking around dingy hotel corridors with nothing on but a coat
——————— that parts when you meet me while I watch spellbound
——————————————————- in an ultimate Bohemian dream
Stay with me your skin so soft I can’t take my hand away
Stay with me your inspiration love and anger the tears we shed
Stay with me the hundred thousand words I have written
——————– the hundred thousand words you write in return
Stay with me writing all night till 5am trying to make sense of this maelstrom
——————— getting up to see something stirring in the darkness
———————- through eyes glued together that no longer see or understand
———————- and you so far away rising in icy dawn
——————— breathing pure air
Stay with me the first time I saw you when you were hand in hand with the sun
——————— and there was never anyone like you nor will there ever be again
and when I first saw you all I wanted was to feel the tips of your fingers on my skin
to brush my own to your forehead, down your cheek to your lips
the first time we kissed and we couldn’t stop stay with me
and times you raced through days and nights on car on motorbike
——————– to surprise me at Markwell and Green Point
——————— peeling off a leather jacket and cares falling away
let me hold you wordlessly as you hold me for minutes in silence
———————————————————————- and desperate meditations
Stay with me for every second is precious that I’m with you and away from
——————– you when I think of you those seconds precious too
May my words gain the flesh they need to hold your hand once again
—————— to touch you to feel the warmth of the sun you hold in your other hand
——————- that you will never let go
——————- to be alone with you for one hour day lifetime
Stay with me live with me don’t live with me be who you are not what
—————— I want you to be just
Stay with me, stay
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Eh, My Little One
Eh, my little one,
today is your naming day
and I would be with you
but am countless miles away –
the continent heaves
and I realise that I am no further away
than my fingertip to yours –
for you are in my blood
and I am in yours
named thus and thus and marking
the passing of the years.
So, today is your naming day
and they name you Marco.
with your adventurous namesake,
restless and curious even in the paradise
of that city of stones and water,
who travelled his many years into history.
May you make as many journeys
In wonder and rich discovery.
and we in Perth
watch cats stalk butterflies through long grass,
then leap and dance amid Spring charged flowers,
and we older ones remark your name
desiring your tender tapestry of touch,
your small hand weaving around our lingering fingers.
To your parents then,
who give you and ask us all to this day.
They are changed and charged by you,
for your entry has expanded their lives
into the shining golden chain of continuity.
So what then to your very naming?
As I once said to your mother in her poem,
you are born into language
and that naming has been chosen with due and loving care,
making your mark on the world semiotic,
For in your marking of it
you will limn and freshen and sharpen our wavering traces,
that all is as it yet could be,
Oh my little one, my grandson
move out and on into your mutual destiny.
Peter Jeffery OAM
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REMOTE AND REGIONAL WA WINNER
Thinking Back to Boat Harbour
I’m standing behind a woman in the bank.
She’s wearing your perfume.
It’s all I can do not to touch
the nape of her neck
spin her round for a kiss.
I recall the confidence with which we drove
north to Sisters Beach, utterly at ease
with our three days acquired
trickster-like, though not dishonestly
to explore, while the sun was high on
this territory we’d tasted,
our next stop
the double bed you’d booked
wide-flung, explosively private
a slipstream of hunger and daring.
All those years ago now
but I remember how we left our children
with unsure husbands who nevertheless had faith
that we’d be back, but the gate would be closed
on our singular secret.
You drop me home and we share a final hug.
Driving off, a string of smiles
unwinds behind your car.
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YOUTH INCENTIVE WINNER
Sweat from the pore
the smug authority and charm,
In the embrace of hot air under mosquito tyranny.
My inamorata dances under the influence
stumbling pirouettes into my haggard arms.
Gone vermillion in the face.
There; this inane comfort consists
of bodily fluids, thermal exchange
These callused fingers
are running miles over every foramen, crater
with the intent of forfax
caressing the stars to sleep.
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