Lionel Bowen Young Writers’ Award – My Poem: It Was A Gift
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 ;) ).
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.