This week I had the honor of winning 1st place in the poetry section for the 2016 Lionel Bowen Young Writers’ Awards. It was a great night at the University of NSW. The award was given to me by Cr Tony Bowen (son of Deputy Australian Prime Minister Lionel Bowen) and Bill Conn (who nearly gave my award to the wrong person ;) ).
The Lionel Bowen Young Writers’ Award runs every two years and my sister and I have had a great relationship with the competition. The first time I entered was in year 5 with the poem “In The Ocean’s Arms” coming 1st and then again in year 7 with the poem “Where the Land Meets the Sea” coming 3rd. They say third time’s a charm and it proved true for me. This year I am in year 9 and I entered this poem:
It Was A Gift
It was a gift.
Destitution filled every sliver of his being;
He carried a crippled body, broken heart and hollow stomach.
Then he found them.
Stumbling through open forest, he found the flock alone in the wild.
He was their shepherd and they were his sheep.
Their bond was one of equality.
The shepherd safeguarded his sheep
Against the beasts of prey and the sombre of the witching hours.
And the sheep provided for their shepherd
With the wool off their backs and the meat of the old.
To love and be loved was the nature of their bond.
He began to take his gift for granted.
The shepherd withdrew from defending his sheep.
He began to snitch their fleece, despite young winter winds
And slaughter for their meat when they were still tenderfoot.
The sheep turned their backs on him and left.
Without them, he fell into the wretchedness of eternal rest…
…It was a gift.
Nothingness was all we were;
A celestial chance in a perpetual cosmos.
Then we began to exist.
Humans burst into life with a ground beneath our feet to call home.
We were its people and it was our earth.
Our bond was one of equality.
We nurtured our earth,
With our hands we grew gardens, fostered animals and formed civilizations.
And the earth provided for its people
With the fruit of its land, the water of it oceans and the atmosphere that enveloped it.
To love and be loved was the nature of our bond.
We began to take our gift for granted.
We withdrew from nurturing the earth.
We began to exhaust the land with ceaseless reaping of fruits
And slaughter for meat until the fringe of extinction.
The world turned its backs on us and wilted.
Without it we fell into the wretchedness of eternal rest.
The Judges Comment
This two-part narrative poem is impressive in its ambitious rendering of two nurturing relationships that turn predatory and then ultimately break down as “the gift” is taken away.
It draws an analogy between a shepherd’s connection with his flock, and the human connection with the natural environment. Some striking turns of phrase such as “a perpetual cosmos” and “the fringe of extinction” add energy to this work. By adopting a wide-angle view of the human condition, this poem poses pertinent questions for us as a global community.
Rowena Gonzales, University of NSW, School of Arts and Media
I’ve noticed that the quality of the competition and the number of entries increase each year. Well done to all the winners.
2016 Winners Years 3 to 4 – Poem
· 1st place: Matilda Saunders
· 2nd place: Joshua Falato
· 3rd place: Ruth Durbach
· Highly commended: Rachel Kam
· Highly commended: Amali Roumanous
2016 Winners Years 3 to 4 – Short Story
· 1st place: Melanie Kang
· 2nd place: Akshar Reddy
· 3rd place: Zoe Vella
· Highly commended: Tanishkaa Ramesh
· Highly commended: Georgia Middleton
2016 Winners Years 5 to 6 – Poem
· 1st place: Celeste Martin-Bygrave
· 2nd place: Natalia Krawiec
· 3rd place: Elsa Ray Lane
· Highly commended: Joshua Samuel
2016 Winners Years 5 to 6 – Short Story
· 1st place: Mika Singh
· 2nd place: Celeste Martin-Bygrave
· 3rd place: Abbie Maskell
· Highly commended: Ruby Thomasyu
· Highly commended: Yaseen Khan
2016 Winners Years 7 to 9 – Poem
· 1st place: Eve Cogan
· 2nd place: Emma Woo
· 3rd place: Eleni Tsintominas
· Highly commended: Deborah Carissa Indrawan
· Highly commended: Rebecca Marzol
2016 Winners Years 7 to 9 – Short Story
· 1st place: Logan Ingle
· 2nd place: Edwin Guo
· 3rd place: Kristina McLean
· Highly commended: Kiara Weber
· Highly commended: Jemivieve Saravanja
2016 Winners Years 10 to 12 – Poem
· 1st place: Sarrah Khan
· 2nd place: Eileen Li
· 3rd place: Erika de Leon
· Highly commended: Rudi Ahi
2016 Winners Years 10 to 12 – Short Story
· 1st place: Daniel Hu
· 2nd place: Jordan Collins
· 3rd place: Elke Leamon
· Highly commended: Jason Cleary-Gorton
· Highly commended: Makayla Back