Junior poets celebrated

Year 10 and Under winner and runner-up sisters Lucy and Joy Price are proudly pictured with their awards.
Year 10 and Under winner and runner-up sisters Lucy and Joy Price are proudly pictured with their awards.

The Castlemaine Junior Poetry Prize winners were celebrated at a small ceremony at the Castlemaine Library foyer on Saturday December 5.
The Poetry Prize initiated by the Castlemaine Mail is now in its ninth year and has been proudly supported by Mount Alexander Shire Council since its inception. Our Senior Poetry Prize winners will be announced on December 19. Watch this space!
We would like to thank all the young poets that took the time to make submissions in what has been a particularly challenging year. 
Inaugural judge Tegan Gigante and fellow judge Annie Hunter once again had an incredibly tough job selecting our winners and we thank them for their tireless efforts. (See Tegan’s full report below). 
Castlemaine Junior Poetry Prize 2020 winners were as follows:
Winner: Lucy Price, ‘Changing the World’.
Runner-up: Joy Price, ‘Final Hopes’.
Highly Commended: Scout Simpson-Purdon, ‘Remember the Light’.
Winner: Raffaella M. Amati, ‘A Dazzling Dream’.
Runner-up: Henry Carr, Grade 5 Maldon Primary School, ‘Onion Grass’.
Highly Commended: Max Henderson, Grade 6, CNPS, untitled; Eliza Price, Grade 6, Winters Flat, ‘The Storm’; Anika De Kesel, Grade 6, Chewton PS, ‘The beast that ate it all’; Esther Kennedy, Grade 5, CNPS, untitled; ‘Navigating’ – a picture poem, Grade 3 CNPS – Arlo Morris Henry Vickers, Grade 3 CNPS, ‘Undies’; Hector Curtain Magee, Grade 3 Chewton PS, ‘Wombats, we are thankful’; Xanthe Ryan, Grade 5, Chewton PS, ‘Never trampoline with a blue whale’; Meghan Wojniusz, Grade 4, Maldon PS, untitled; Kirra Soroghan, Grade 5, Chewton PS, ‘Night’.
Winner: Tenzin Steer, Grade 2, Chewton PS, ‘The life of an old oak tree’. Tenzin is the great, great, great grandson of Australian poet, activist, lawyer and journalist Bernard O’Dowd. It appears poetry runs in the blood! Keep up the great work Tenzin!
Runner-up: Akira Hill, Chewton PS, untitled.
Highly Commended: Max Cevolatti, Grade 1 CNPS; Reuben O’Sullivan, Grade 1, Campbells Creek PS; Sylvie Sproal, Grade 1, Forever.

Here are our winning poems. See next week’s Mail for more…

Year 10 & Under Winner
‘Changing the World’ 
– By Lucy Price

If only ’twas that life could be, or would be, more worthwhile
By always being thoughtful and by going the extra mile.
But whether people do try hard or don’t try hard or what,
It’s sad to see, but seems to me that progress they make not.

Some people say: ‘We’ll change the world!’ and still, to my regret,
They work so hard to no avail – the world has not changed yet.
They struggle and fight stubbornly, and yet they toll in vain,
‘Cause all the hard-earned change gives way to trial, strife and pain.

And yet, sometimes it puzzles me, and really, it seems strange
That not withstanding people’s work, the world rejects the change.
Which often gets me wondering, ‘How feasible is this?’
When nothing works to change our world to perfect peace and bliss.

But all, of course, is possible with One who lives on high,
If all would trust and live for Him – if only they would try.
Of all the things that people think would make a better place
The one that towers over all is sovereign love and grace.
And so, if only God’s commands would come to life once more,
The world even if not perfect would be nicer, I am sure.

Grade 6 & Under Winner
‘A Dazzling Dream’
– By Raffaella M. Amati

A stroke of paint,
In forest green,
A world my generation,
Hasn’t seen.
Bright leaves,
Emerald grass,
Beetle shells,
As bright as brass.

A stroke of paint,
Plants are taking form,
Inside the canvas,
A new world is born.
Ferns curl from colour,
As I wish I could,
Jump inside the frame,
To restart my childhood.

A stroke of paint,
And a swing sprouts,
From a eucalyptus tree,
As happy children gallop about.
Air rustles past,
Twitching hair,
I paint the moment,
Freezing the infants there.

A stroke of paint,
Sky blue embraces the land,
Changing it from the pollution,
Which really covers where we stand.
Sunset glows,
Skies fade to dark,
Stars gleam,
As fiery sparks.

Our planet is not,
what it used to be,
Smoginess everywhere,
Rubbish in the sea.
I’ve painted a day,
A dazzling dream,
What comes in the future,
Remains to be seen.

Grade 2 and Under Winner
‘The Life of an Old Oak Tree’
– By Tenzin Steer

I wonder if I’ve chosen the wrong destiny.
Or have I lost the peace and harmony?
How I wish my family was still alive, 
my heart is cracking at every point inside.
How I wish they were revived.
But I’m not afraid to put my fears aside.
How these species are excavating my life.
Oh! The life of an old oak tree, 
but my time is running out 
I should quickly spread my acorns,
hopefully there’ll be an older oak then me. 

Judge’s Report, Juniors 2020

Meghan Wojniusz, Grade 4, asks in the opening line of her entry: “Why should we write poetry? All the line breaks and rhymes/ We should play with our peers, not do things from old times.” Her poem goes on to offer one indirect answer to this very important question. It captures the wonderful sense of humour, irony and imagination that a young person can bring to this old art. Many of this year’s entries have a playful, experimental quality, using the tricks of the trade to make a game of it. This is a wise strategy for a poet of any age! 

‘Imagination’ is a key word that emerged from this year’s responses. The winning poems of all the junior sections all shared a keen imaginative vision. ‘Imagining a better world’ by Lucy Price (Year 10 & Under) and ‘A dazzling dream’ by Raffaella M. Amati (Grade 6 & Under) both examine the shadow side of the world they have inherited, and not only hope for a better future but show us what that might look like. ‘The life of an old oak tree’ by Tenzin Steer (Grade 2 & Under) is among several poems that explore the perspective of a non-human being, an essential viewpoint that poetry can offer us in this time of environmental crisis. 

Another key word is ‘Observation’. The world is full of rich and varied details, and it’s part of every poet’s job to notice and record them. Whether it’s something common and humble, like onion grass, or as “elloosiv” as the blue-banded bee, the quality of attention is important for any poem to succeed, and many of this year’s entries showed us the close observation of the world around us that we all need in order to know it and want to care for it.

Some of the themes that were revealed by this year’s entries show us the way poetry can be a useful tool to explore some big and difficult experiences. Covid and lockdown were written about, as were the bushfires, reflecting the extraordinary year that has been 2020. Perennial stories, of love and war, were grappled with too, from a very early age – though delicately balanced against some very fine humour. An honourable mention goes to Henry Vickers’ piece ‘Undies’: if there was a prize for funniest poem, this one would have won it!

Finally, no poem can exist without a form of some sort. The winning poems used the shape of their words to make the subject stronger, some using structures like regular stanzas and complex rhyme schemes. Other poets experimented with free verse, concrete poems and other informal styles, or used great rhythms and dynamic energy. We encourage writers of every age to learn more about the forms and devices of great poetry, so you have lots of tools to help create your works of word-based art.

Congratulations to all the award-winners for this year’s Castlemaine Poetry Prize, and a big thanks to everyone who made a poem and sent it in. It was an absolute pleasure to read the work of our wonderful young people, and enjoy their quirky sense of humour, keen observations, and vivid imaginations. We hope you keep writing!

Lisa Dennis
Editor of the Castlemaine Mail newspaper and senior journalist on our sister paper the Midland Express. Over the last 24 years Lisa been proudly reporting news in the Mount Alexander and Macedon Ranges communities.