The Tabor Adelaide Creative Writing Awards will not be run in 2016, as we take time off to develop and launch an exciting new writing contest called Stories of Life! For more information click on the link and start writing!
We anticipate that the Tabor College Writing Awards will return in 2017. In the meantime, check out the results of the 2015 contest below:
Poetry 1st Prize – Azrael, by Joy Reid
Poetry 2nd Prize – Pandora, by Janeen Samuel
Short Story 1st Prize – The aunt who had to go away for a while, by James Hughes
Short Story 2nd Prize – Khola’s Infinite Amount of Hope in the Universe, by David Thomas Henry Wright
Special Judges’ Prize – The Girl Next Door, by Pauline Cleary
Judges’ Comments – Poetry
This year’s poetry competition, based on ‘Hope against hope’, brought an impressive range in ways of dealing with the theme, explored in contexts as diverse as emigration, bushfires, domestic violence, broken relationships, topical issues such as war aftermath, refugees, Aboriginal life and so on. While at times it was difficult to see the connection with the theme, most poets found it a rewarding stimulus, which led to very different approaches.
Equally diverse were the poetic styles, ranging from very structured forms such as the sestina and other rhymed forms and line structures to free verse and some imaginative and evocative layout patterns.
We were impressed by the rich and varied use of language and imagery. Phrases like the ‘pale bloom of stars’ remained in our minds, and images such as, fire-fighters standing
“… firm with hoses,
leaning like ship figureheads
bracing for assault”
or an abandoned lover lying
“… exactly where you left me
and felt the chalk outline closing in”
There was some outstanding use of extended metaphors, like that of trees making their impossible exodus from a barren environment to a more generous place with its “dark sweet soil.”
The capacity to paint evocative pictures of domestic life was often deeply moving, as with the emigrating mother, with her “frilly, scalloped and frothy with optimism” unpicked best dirndl.
The two winning poems were very different, but both these, like those in the ‘commended’ list, showed a sophisticated mastery of poetic skills and sensitive insights into the theme. Azrael, the first placed poem, was packed with images that led to a perceptive development of the experience of a bushfire, and musical in its handling of the rhythms of the verse. While it was set out in an interesting line pattern, it is important to remember that use of such a device must be purposeful; it must enhance the poem and not be just a gimmick. The image of the fire as a “soaring bronzed Azrael,” an angel of death, provided a compelling picture of the potential for devastation it carried.
This was a rare poem in that a strong narrative line was developed with unusual and evocative imagery throughout. Lines such as
“… cruel sharded light
that strafes the burning pasture
with laser fire”
set the scene of mounting terror, and the final deliverance led to a closing full of impact:
“I turn to you, grin,
your black-rimmed eyes slide south-west.
Now, Others will burn.”
The second place was awarded to Pandora, one of the most sustained explorations of the theme that came to us, in a beautifully controlled meditation on Pandora’s release of hope to the world after all the evils had escaped, thanks to her meddling curiosity. It moved from an arresting opening line:
“Why couldn’t she have done the job properly?”
before ranging over all the false hopes of ancient times, from Atlantis to Pompeii. There were some memorable images; that of hope, still in her box, as the “last creature with its claws in the corner … that clinging tormenter.” A challenging vision of hope, having to be “prised out of the box” with Pandora’s spindle – not quite the comforting image we are usually given. The final stanza has the reader groping for truth in the labyrinth, and “swallowing the whisper” of false hopes.
Overall, this was an impressive set of poems which gave the judges great pleasure but made selection of the final commended group a difficult task. So many poems we would have loved to include, but had to put into the ‘next best’ pile.
Judges’ Comments – Short Story
1st prize: The Aunt Who Had to Go Away for a While
This story, told from a child’s point of view, demonstrates a thorough grasp of craft of writing and the short story form. The spare but potent dialogue between the two sisters is tellingly juxtaposed with the activity at the beehive in the back yard, and the suggestion of danger and the potential for ‘sting’ at both sites neatly captured by the image of the bee invading the house. Hope, beautifully understated, is present in the mother’s visit and allusion to the aunt’s survival, as well as the latter’s cheerful final comment to the child. Jubilant cheering indeed!
2nd prize: Khola’s Infinite Amount of Hope in the Universe
This short ironic story, set in a tutorial room in an Australian university, explores the ideas behind the work of Franz Kafka (isolation, anxiety, meaninglessness) against the real life experience of Khola, a refugee from the DRC who ‘hoped against hope’ to begin a new life elsewhere. The characters of Khola’s English lecturer and fellow students are deftly written, while the power shift with its heart-wrenching ironies is neatly achieved.
Judges’ Prize: ‘The Girl Next Door’
In addition to the first and second prize winners, the judges decided to award a Special Judges’ Prize to the short story ‘The Girl Next Door’. Narrated in a teenage voice, the story clearly depicts the tragic cycle of domestic violence. The prose is suitably spare and crisp; the hope that Charlotte has in her boyfriend is poignant. The image of Charlotte’s hair clip with a blood red hibiscus foreshadows trouble and yet at the end it nestles in the narrator’s hand like a small red heart…beating still. A beautiful and timely story worthy of special recognition here.