Friday, September 28, 2007

4th Bravado International Poetry Competition 2007
Judge’s Report from Elizabeth Smither

What a box of poems! 667 entries to spread about the house, to read in various rooms, to attach little stickies to.
Only thirteen needed on voyage; it feels like the sinking of the Titanic but at least, and perhaps the most moving image we now have, the orchestra went on playing.
(Imagining those last moments, the water rising, the bow sliding for one last time across the strings would make a fine poem).
I found so much variety and so much to enjoy:

I stroke the back of South Africa,
and kiss the nape of South Africa,
as sleep takes him from me’
(The heat of South Africa)

Wow, look at that hot chick,
her car’s broken down.
Hey, mate shall we help her?
(Litany of our Sons)

Many of the poems practically jumped out of the box:

The day, when I awoke and it jumped in the window
(The day)

There were splendid titles (so much can be said in a title that is then not required in the body of the poem) such as The Ballad of the Lonely Masturbator’s Wife:

like rockets
about to launch,
the bed and he
are wedded;
though aching to shrill,
I must keep still.

The market place was there in the delightfully coined words of The Bottom Line:

the glozzins and grizzmands that dissipate
when technotubbification and sockdogalery proliferate

and these most delightful lines that concluded a nightmare of a dog named Sal being chased by an alligator – nurses is the most perfect rhyme. White uniforms and alligator purses.

I took a gun and shot him dead
I skinned him and made purses
And shoes and handbags that are worn
By office girls and nurses.
(Alligator Nightmare)

What I was looking for was in each case determined by the poem itself. Sometimes it is directness that captivates (as in the Melbourne street); sometimes complexity (as in The Tryst) where the exactness of image has to be scrupulously maintained. Sometimes movement (A Day on the Hustings) or Shostakovich in a De Soto. Sometimes an elusive mood is the main subject of the poem and it has to be judged on what is left as a residue (Learning to Fall and Another Name). Or it can be almost choked and incoherent with emotion (I.V.F.) and still triumph. Each poem creates its own world, it own terms and determines its own form.
Poem is not meant to compete with poem and yet this happens every time a poem is submitted to a magazine or a competition. But at least in the Bravado competition there is no house style, no preference for rhymed or unrhymed, conventional or unconventional. (Several entries regretted the good old days of rhyme but I think they are mistaken, except of course, that where rhyme rises naturally in a poem, it is brilliant, and like adding bling). Nor are there ‘poetic’ subjects: landscapes, estuaries, loneliness, loving.
The best advice is still probably Allen Curnow’s: ‘Look back harder’. It is the hard looking that makes the best poems. I very much enjoyed the task of judging. Congratulations to the winners and everyone who entered. Keep writing.

Prizewinners – all poems to be published in Bravado 11, November 2007

1st Prize Rosemary Wildblood A scene at the Wellington Festival (for Nigel Cox)
2nd Prize Sue Wootton The confidential sofa
3rd Prize Tim Jones Shostakovich in America

Highly Commended

Emily Adlam Learning to Fall
Michele Amas Boy in a bar
Sarah Broom Under the Hospital
Amy Donovan One Night in Melbourne
David Gregory Another Name
Michael Harlow The Return
Susan Minot A Day on the Hustings
Gill Ward I.V.F.
Kiri Piahana Wong Leaving
Sue Wootton The Tryst

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