And the winners are….

August 10, 2015  |  Uncategorized

On Saturday, 8th of August, the Dangerously Poetic Byron Bay Writers Festival Poetry prize was awarded.  One hundred and seventy eight poems were submitted on the theme of Change by one hundred and eleven poets from every state in Australia. A warm crowd enjoyed the opening didgeridoo performance by Julius Bertock. The judge of our competition, Krissy Kneen read from her new collection, Eating My Grandmother, a grief cycle published by QUP, a Thomas Shapcott award winner.

krissy-kneen-610x222Below is Krissy Kneen’s Judge’s Report which includes the winners:

I was bookselling at Mary Ryan’s in Brisbane 20 years ago when poetry dropped off the lists of most of the major publishing houses. The bookshop no longer ordered collections of poetry and we replaced the poetry section with gift books, puzzles and soduku. I remember feeling sad and uneasy about this.  I didn’t read a lot of poetry at the time. I was a fan of Adrienne Rich, Sylvia Plath and Michael Ondaatje’s poetry but I didn’t regularly buy collections of poems. Still I felt an overwhelming sadness clearing the poetry off the shelves to return to the publishers. I felt the necessity of poetry even though I was guilty of not supporting the form and putting my money where my mouth was.


I was hoping to become a novelist and when people commented that my prose was very poetic it was often said as if it was something I must overcome. My work was too poetic. It made a reader work too hard. But having to work hard is exactly what makes the reading of poetry so wonderful.


I have only very recently made that mental shift to thinking of myself as a poet. I became a poet accidentally, falling into poetry by circumstance rather than by design. The form of poetry chose me when I wrote my collection, Eating my Grandmother and since writing it I have begun to read poetry voraciously. I realise now that equating poetry with hard work was right and true. Poetry does make a reader work harder than so many other forms of writing. It is impossible to be a passive reader of poetry. Reading poetry is a conversation between the writer and the reader. You are an active participant on both sides of the poetic fence. And that is a very good thing.


When I was asked to judge this poetry competition I actively engaged with each of the 100 poems that were longlisted from the even larger pool of submissions. It was a very physical engagement. Every spare centimetre of my floor spoke poetry back to me. I conversed with those 100 poems and about thirty of them demanded a much longer conversation.


It was very difficult to choose the final winners. Ultimately I had to listen to my heart. The judging was blind. I could not be swayed by the reputation of the poets themselves. The conversation was between me as a reader and the poem on the page. Reading back over the winning poems again today, they still touch me at an emotional level and engage my mind in a conversation that has not ended. That is the wonderful thing about good poetry. You can read the same poems again and again at various times in your life and you will still have so much to say to each other.


This is why it is so tragic that most of the major publishers cut their poetry lists so many years ago, and this is why it is so important that organisations like  Dangerously Poetic Press still provide a forum for readers and poets to meet and chat for the length of a poem.


Congratulations to the winner of the first prize, Gill Goater, for her poem “Gifts from my Father”.

Congratulations also to Francis Olive who won second prize for “The Change” and who was also highly commended for “The Butterfly”.


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