Helen Lehndorf has read over 300 poems, and then read them again and again, keeping in mind her own criteria plus a few words of requirement from me! She had no idea whose work she was looking at as I removed all sign of ownership on the poems that slipped into the competition complete with names! Any letters, drawings and photos were also kept in my care so she was totally in the dark re age, sex, occupation, and experience of the poets. Helen has done a fantastic job and I am thrilled with her choices.
The winners have all been notified, their prizes are in the post, and I’ve emailed everyone, who provided me with an email address, to let them know the results are out. Many thanks to: Booksellers NZ, and Otago University Bookshop for providing book vouchers as prizes for our 2014 competition.
The winning poems will appear in the winter edition of the Poems in the Waiting Room poetry card. I intend spending the weekend going through all submissions and selecting any which might be suitable for a future PitWR edition. I’ll be in touch with those poets early next week.
And now the results:
Booksellers NZ First Prize: ‘That’s Art’ by Belinda Diepenheim from Ashhurst.
Booksellers NZ Second Prize: ‘Old Home’ by Cherry Hill from Christchurch.
Otago University Bookshop Third Prize: ‘Ode To A Compost Bin’ by Charmain Koed from Nelson.
Otago University Bookshop Best unplaced Dunedin poem: ‘First Rain After Drought’ by Carolyn McCurdie.
Many thanks to everyone who entered the competition. Your support will help Poems in the Waiting Room continue to provide free seasonal poetry cards to medical waiting rooms, rest homes, prisons and hospices.
Picture this: a sunny autumn afternoon in Palmerston North, I am sitting on a big, circular floor cushion on my living room floor with a mug of tea by my side and a wide mandala of poems fanned around me on the floor, as I read and sort, read and sort…
What a wonderful way to spend a day, and what a privilege to read the work of so many different voices, from different locales around New Zealand (made evident through the terrain described in the poems).
This year the strongest theme that came through by far was nature poems. It heartened me to be reminded of what a nature-loving, outdoorsy nation we are…there were so many poems about seasons, plants, camping, swimming and best of all intimate descriptions of the places the poets live, pride in their local terrain. Some of you ought to be employed by Tourism New Zealand!
The second largest subject matter were poems of a philosophical nature – questioning poems, contemplating our existence.
It should be noted that I had two criteria in my mind as I read the poems – firstly, the quality of the poems. Did the poem engage and surprise? Was it unique? Interesting? Was the imagery fresh and particular? The second thing I had to consider was the potential publishing of these poems in the Poems In the Waiting Room booklets. Ruth specified that poems which get selected for the booklets need to be: ‘good, not depressing, upbeat, uncomplicated, poems which would reduce stress and anxiety and leave people feeling a little better.’ This criteria makes complete sense. If you are sitting in a waiting room worried about your health, then the last thing you want to read is downbeat poetry. I got the enormous pile of entry poems down to a final seven contenders and I found it very hard to choose from there, so it was this latter consideration which helped me ultimately choose. There were a lot of strong poems, including amongst those which didn’t make the shortlist, which I liked but tended a bit towards the melancholic. I thought it was worth reminding you all of that to hearten the poets who did not place.
I wish to give a special mention to the four poems which didn’t end up placing, but which did make my ‘final seven’. Please know I very much enjoyed your poems and I contemplated them at length in choosing the finalists. Thank you for your beautiful words. They were: ‘Great Aunt’; ‘What Happens’; ‘Today I bought…’ (excellent use of concrete poetic form!); and ‘Wanaka’.
Some brief words about the winning poems:
Third Place: ‘Ode to a compost bin’ is wonderful in its bold simplicity and it’s entwining of ode and metaphor, the humble compost bin was celebrated with apt, accurate imagery and then extended out into a life metaphor with a deft hand in the final stanza.
Second Place: ‘Old Home’ was again, wonderfully bold in its simplicity, (I like a plain-speaking poem!) but surprising, particular, affectionate without being cloying and captures something of the nature of ‘wairua’ / the spirit of place. Wonderful work.
First Place: What caught my attention about ‘That’s Art’ was again, the combination of careful, deft description and imagery coupled with a light-handed love of simple pleasures. It has the same light-handed celebratory tone of Rumi. It binds the quotidian to the divine in the most tender way. A beautiful piece.
The Dunedin winner ‘First Rain After Drought’ so beautifully captured the tension that not just the gardener but the whole eco-system of backyard experiences during drought. The sensitive gardener can feel their plants thirsting and crying out for water. This poem is a beautiful exploration of what it is like for gardener and garden when that first decent soak of rain comes – there is a breaking of tension so profound which the poet cleverly describes with a clever metaphor in the second stanza.
Again, thanks to all who entered and my huge congratulations to the winners. It was such a pleasure to read all of your poems. I hope you all enter again next year. Thanks, too, to Ruth for asking me to judge the competition – thanks for having faith in me to do a good job!