Venie Holmgren Environmental Poetry Prize winner announced

Congratulations to all the entrants of the inaugural Venie Holmgren Environmental Poetry Prize. Thank you to all the poets who took the time to submit an entry. Venie would have loved to have sat with us here in the office and to have read the poems as they came in from all across the country, 115 of them.

Without further ado, we would like to announce the winner of the 2016 Prize:

Lynn Sunderland from Trentham, Vic., for her poem
How to Write an Environmental Poem

 

Highly commended were:

Elizabeth Gleeson for the poem Hygrocybe at the Market

and

Frances Paterson for Sonnet to Three Gumnuts

 

Thank you to judges Richard Perry and Bronwyn Blaiclock for undertaking the difficult challenge of selecting a single winner. At the Words in Winter prize presentation, Richard read out a statement on behalf of the judges, which you can read here.

We were fortunate that Lynn was able to come along to the event and read her poem.

Lynnereads

We are thrilled to present to you, in its entirety, Lynn Sunderland’s award winning poem:

How to Write an Environmental Poem

We begin with a framework strong enough

To hold in its hands this planet’s poem:

A scaffolding blunt as the flint hearted mountains

And supple as green boughs twisted toward water

That it may bear in its sinews and its soul

The very weight of your dreaming

 

And your poem must sing with a cadence sweet as birdsong

Yet cruel as the iron ring of axe blade against heartwood

For its voice must be as true and as complicated

As the keening cry of gulls above a grey sweep of ocean

Or the numbing drum of rain, hour upon hour

And every time it draws breath

We must hear the silences, too,

Of those who cannot speak

 

And it may rhyme grandly

Like the broad and stately sail of a whale’s tail

Or whimsically as greenies in beanies

Or sadly as the breath of death itself

 

But within the footfall of its rhyme

There will always be a dissonance

Plaintive as river water weeping over pebbles

Raw as the rattle of a wintry drift of hail

Or pure as wind chimes

Netting the North wind’s lonely voice

 

It must sing with a rhythm all its own

A song as old as the steady drip of glaciers

As slow as the rasp of the tide’s mouth

On a million, million grains of sand

As dependable as the lurch and heft of the sun

 

And it must be sensual in its seasons

Licked by the wet tongues of calving beasts

Rolled in the honeyed hum

Of a hundred drowsing bees

Sated by a sickly surfeit of summer’s indolent heat

 

And this poem must have height and depth to colour it in:

Be bold in your dreaming, and build it

Grand as the icy glitter of a starlit night

Broad as a prairie blown to gold in autumn

Triumphant in its song, even when

Wracked by ocean currents cold enough

And deep enough to drown a continent

 

And yet you must not fail to nourish

Even the most insignificant of its sorrows

The unnamed extinctions gone to dust

The drift of time

The silence of bones

The infinitely lost promise

Of a single seedling

 

Its metaphors, of course,

Must be extravagant and reckless

And here you have much to work with …

The churn of storm clouds sketching their threat

Like smoke through milk in a winter sky

The ashen pallor of a bushfire’s wake

Or the way a forest leans together at the last,

Mourners at the funeral pyre

Of a whole planet stumbling into oblivion,

Its oil soaked wings folded mutely in surrender

 

Write your poem, then,

In ink red as the fox’s bloodied paws

With a gaze unblinking as an owl’s nightblack eye

 

And when it is made

Wheel it out into the light of this day’s dawn

And set it where the first fingers of morning

Might touch and probe and wonder…

 

But beware

 

For your contraption of caesura and sonnet

Your artifice of syllable and sound

Will in the end be nothing

 

To the tragedy and beauty of a single moment

 

On this planet, Earth.

 

 

——————

 

 

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4 Responses to Venie Holmgren Environmental Poetry Prize winner announced

  1. Patrick August 9, 2016 at 10:43 am #

    Hmmm…a poem about writing a poem…a controversial choice may I say.

  2. ian August 9, 2016 at 8:45 pm #

    Agree with Patrick, but Venie demands controversy, does she not?
    Also a lot of women winners, another Venie theme?
    thanks everyone who helped make this happen

  3. Harry Carlin August 10, 2016 at 3:42 pm #

    as usual, a shining piece from Lynnie !! Proud to know this talented Lady.

  4. E A Gleeson August 11, 2016 at 4:34 pm #

    The poetry of the poem is beautiful. It enhances the bold concepts. This is a stunning poem.

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