Contest Judges’ Comments
It has been my great pleasure to judge the 2015 Poetry d’Amour Love Poetry Contest. Many thanks to all those who submitted poetry to the contest, and with 236 entries it certainly was not an easy task to find the winning, commended and runner up poems. However, a winner must be chosen and there were a couple of standout entries. Love is a subject that is much written about and the challenge of the poet is to find new ways of saying old truths. The poems that stood out were able to show rather than tell, offered a fresh approach to an old story, and were able to maintain some burden of mystery; that is they did not attempt to answer all questions with trite or predictable endings, but offered an element of surprise and imaginative originality.
The winning poem is probably an unusual choice in that it is quite a short poem. But this poem really stood out for its stark beauty and powerfully appropriate use of metaphor. By using the metaphor of the trees ‘holding blue eggs of ice in their hands’, and the simple but strong ending ‘how cold it’s been’ the writer invokes a desolation and sense of loss with so few words. This poem is like a clenched fist unfurling upon the page, to slap the reader with a blast of cold air and longing. The winning poem is ‘I Want To Send You’ by Jaya Penelope.
The overall runner up also stood out for its attention to form and strong metaphors; ‘the chrysalis/we split by clasping hands’; and for its description of love that has endured, ‘as if dropping years of coins into a money box’. It speaks concisely of love that is solid, affirmative and bountiful. I will hand it to you and say: feel this weight; look how we’ve grown’, yet remains ‘fresh as in butterflies, just like the first time’. The joy of the conclusion – at once concise and expansive, enables this poem to allude to the experience that cannot be captured by words and that the poet courts as a lover. The overall runner up is ‘Repeat’ by Anna Ryan-Punch.
The two highly commended: Autumn at the Cidery’ by Renee Pettitt-Schipp is a beautifully described moment in time that poet ‘cannot own’. A quiet afternoon with a person they love, thinking about the idea of ‘perfection’ the poet describes being stunned and persuaded by the wind drifts of typha seeds. Again an original and totally personal reflection of an aspect of love. ‘The Bridge of Birds’ by Jaya Penelope, speaks to the impossibility of the romantic ideal and the often momentary nature of the feeling of connection. The ‘yawning hallway’ separating love and the word, drifting across like a feather are evocative images that describe well the, ‘impossible metaphor’.
Commended: ‘When She Was Well’ by Rose van Son, uses cooking and particular dishes as a way of describing the depth of a long term relationship and domesticity, with some lovely images such as ‘the kitchen table barely strong enough to hold his arms around her’, and, ‘flowered tarragon to his lips her taste held on his tongue’. The rhythmic quality of the poem, enables the reader to entreat the senses and perceive the loving relationship.
‘Anniversary’ by Gail Willems, has a great sense of rhythm and form and uses original language such as ‘ In this light the canvas of skin has collapsed / the tent of your bones’, and ‘we fall into and out of each other / there is a separation between knowing and dreaming //. This piece expresses the mystery of love as something that cannot be pinned down, it is ‘un-photographable’.
Greenhouse Realty Mandurah Award for the Peel Region: ‘Under the Orange Tree’ by Gail Willems. This poem takes the reader on a sensual journey, traversing time, in particular a Sunday that ‘rises’ and ‘falls’ evoking the sacred and transgression. As well as this the reader encounters landscape, ‘at noon the choir of orange swung across the hillside’ as well as the body and longing, ‘the song of lust knew its way to stars’. The lyrical composition of this poem lends itself to the romantic and could easily have been lost to a saccharine ideal but the last line hooks a solid punch the lifts the reader to a delicious satisfaction.
Remote and Regional WA Winner: ‘Did I Disturb You?’ by louisa. This poem uses the architecture of the everyday to compose a scene of tenderness beyond the immediacy of love. The poem at first seems to be about the suffering of the loved one, ‘The cord to your voice was broken’, and become a homage to a different kind of love – that of the one who suffers in waiting to be able to love, ‘I sat quietly on a stiff wooden chair’. A pleasure in love, forestalled, is also a type of offering and seduction.
Youth Incentive Award: ‘Persephone’ by Audrey El-Osta. This poem is perfectly situated in the transition between maidenhood and womanhood and uses the myth to be able to speak a truth of modern feminine experience; ‘young lessons have been learnt, pleasure is no stranger’. Dividing the story between the seasons, not only respects the form of the original mythology but allows the reader to travel with the young ‘demigoddess’ as she brings ‘back maiden grace to her garden’. The poem is playful, immediate and sensual – exactly as the winner of the youth section should be.
“I Want To Send You” by Jaya Penelope
“Repeat” by Anna Ryan-Punch
“Autumn At The Cidery” by Renee Pettitt-Schipp
“The Bridge Of Birds” by Jaya Penelope
“Anniversary” by Gail Willems
“When She Was Well” by Rose van Son
Greenhouse Realty Mandurah Award for the Peel Region
“Under The Orange Trees” by Gail Willems
Remote and Regional WA Winner
“Did I Disturb You?” by louisa (Louise House)
Youth Incentive Award
“Persephone” by Audrey El-Osta
I Want To Send You
this photograph of me
knee deep in snow by a frozen river.
See how the trees hold blue
eggs of ice in their aching hands?
How far I’ve come from that summer
of salt we woke wearing
each other’s faces
how cold it’s been?
It’s everything I’ve already said
Repetition of words and looks
that doesn’t wear such gifts thin
but etches each more deeply:
like the constant love of water
carves liquid memory into rock.
Your years have lived you along
to this day: parallel until our
perspectives met at the horizon.
You are so young to my eyes,
still damp from the chrysalis
we split by clasping hands.
Each of these words I will say again
as if dropping years of coins
into a money box. I will hand it
to you and say: feel this weight;
look how we’ve grown.
Our arms linked tight. Look, and how.
It’s everything I’ve already said, and yet:
butterflies, just like the first time.
Autumn At The Cidery
we don’t own it
the way the sun is sleeping
in the leaves
sky boasting again about colour
and our love like a clear note
we sit with all this
and our tenderness curls like
a full-bellied cat
gaze turned outward toward the river-gums
where dragonflies move like laughter
and butterflies descend
in slow sentences
and I am just about to think
perhaps there is perfection
only not sustained
more like flashes
of pure white light
stunned in our seats
lulled by pale ale
pacified by their gentle persuasion
we let it happen
a landscape taken by siege
The Bridge Of Birds
The days when you stay
in your room and I in mine
the hallway yawns between us
Weeks I tear my sheets to strips
weave swaying ladders of hair
send one word floating like a feather
Whole months we do not look into
each other’s eyes, not even as we lick
the salt from each other’s skin
Then, one night of the year the skies clear
and we reach for each other, one night
which could be any night the air is thick
with a flurry of feathers
wingtip to wingtip we span the spaces
between us, step lightly onto the back
of this impossible metaphor
meet for a moment on
the bridge of birds.
In this light the canvas of skin has collapsed / the tent of your bones
a verandah door has unmade your height / I’ll forget to notice
what language we use / the journey // you take a moment to breathe
half way up the track /a backdrop of ocean spindrift / Dampier’s rose
listens to the waves / a beautiful noise measures distance
weaken me with your smile / hold out your hand
claim the space between my fingers / stroll hand in hand
marking a tempo / sensing winter’s edge // your heart will circle
sever shadows at random / your kiss will hold the door open
we fall into and out of each other / there is a separation
between knowing and dreaming // tonight I’ll watch you sleep
trace pencil lead veins in your wrist / my fingerprints will imprint patterns
you / unphotographable
When She Was Well
When she was well, they made
ravioli, the table spread with little pillows
parcelled beef and herbs, spinach
cottage cheese, creamed pumpkin
to fill the cone rolled off her tongue
a little nutmeg, just enough
to hold the light, she said
was all she wanted
her gift for him
chicken spiced with tarragon
rolled and pinched, the spinach
squeezed just long enough
to let green juices soak
the life that slips through squares
the kitchen table
barely strong enough
to hold his arms around her
as she leaned his way as best she could.
Remember me, she said, when she was well
her fingers greased to pinch those little pillows
her face to his and when the water boils
and bubbles rise as soon they must, breathe air
that gap between the water’s pull
and lid, when strength takes all
those little pillows dropping in
take gasp, at first a shallow breath
but soon they swell they float
her smile as he scoops them in
her dimpled skin, aware of light
from light, burnt butter spread
flowered tarragon to his lips
her taste held on his tongue
Rose van Son
Greenhouse Realty Mandurah Award for the Peel Region
Under The Orange Trees
the stones that I throw are picked up by the music of strings
in the sanctuary Sunday rose from its bed of weeds
at noon the choir of orange swung across the hillside
scents sear in brilliant lines of fire the naked form of you
under summer’s long days tingles the air
the perfume of a weighty roundness
gets me all confused leaves me damp
reaching for you
the song of lust knew its way to stars
where night tethered itself to sky the half-cast eye of a moon
lent dream filled nights the illusion of time
Sunday fades through a gate left ajar
I palm an orange suck it dry
Remote and Regional WA Winner
Did I disturb you?
Did I disturb you,
Tiptoeing around your heart?
It was dark
And seemed cold.
The cord to your voice was broken.
It looked like vandalism.
The guttering of your tears
Was rusty – full of holes.
I sat quietly on a stiff wooden chair
Outside those metal doors.
I could smell the acrid fumes of welding.
I lit a fragrant candle.
I have my needle, thread and polishing rags,
I will wait.
Youth Incentive Award
In summer Korei begins her time to bloom:
adolescent demigoddess grows quick with the moon,
learning slowly about men and women.
She sits alone and plays with her pearled oyster,
looking at ikones of Afroditi, touching her statues,
so beautiful, beautiful.
Her young lessons have been learnt, pleasure
is no stranger, not to young Korei.
In autumn Korei feels a change in her.
Innocent playtime now a ravenous hunger;
She patrols her domaine hunting as her thea
Artemis taught her, though not for wild stag.
She sees Hades above ground, and marks her prey,
strips her girdle free and leaves it in the garden:
For what she wants, she won’t need it.
In winter, Korei knows her truth now.
Not a maiden anymore but a woman, a seductress
and underworld empress, a destroyer: let mortals
suffer my drought, I will get what I want.
Hades is my dark prince of chrome silver skin, cobalt eyes
stare into mine, loving every moment of my wild ride, hands
that tenderly guide the departed grip my hips with ravishing vigour.
Pleasure courses through the two gods,
earth shakes, nearly breaks to screams and whispers of
I love that, I love you.
In spring, Persephone rises, visiting the earth
and bringing back maiden grace to her garden
of youth. She finds nymphs and teaches them all
she learnt while she frolicked and fucked
in the underworld. Screams and giggles abound
as young maidens are women made
in the school of Persephone’s touch.