“Lights of Home”: Amnesty International & Dunedin Secondary School Poetry Competition
Congratulations to our winners
- FIRST: black and blue like night by Molly Crighton (year 11), Columba College
- SECOND: Ghost of the past by Catherine Davidson (year 11), St Hilda’s Collegiate
- THIRD: The girl sitting next to me by Jamie MacKenzie (year 13), St Hilda’s Collegiate
- FIRST: Voyage from home by Joanna Liu (year 9), Columba College
- SECOND: Home for the lucky by Isobel Fraser (year 9), Columba College
- THIRD: Dear people of Syria by Holly Friedlander (year 9) Columba College
There were almost one hundred entries, and the standard of writing was very high. In addition to the winning poems above, a further 9 poems have been highly commended.
- Home as a platypus by Jessie Cowie, Year 9, Columba College
- Beginning again by Tessa Campbell, Year 9, Columba College
- Curled up with a book by Abby Clayton, Year 9, Bayfield High School
- Is this shack my home? by Lara Seaton, Year 9, Columba College
- Layers by Finlay Anderson, Year 9, Bayfield High School
- Father from Mother Country by Isla Thomas, Year 12, Logan Park High School
- Ruby Glade by Ella Bendall, Year 13, Logan Park High School
- Clouds by Ella Bendall, Year 13, Logan Park High School
JUDGE’S REPORT: SUE WOOTTON
98 ways of saying ‘home’
98 poems were entered in this year’s competition. I was impressed by the high standard of writing overall, and frequently moved by how poets responded to the theme. As one poet wrote: ‘A home is not a house’. Again and again the poems probed this idea, and again and again the essence of ‘home’ was expressed in terms of safety, acceptance and love. The poems explored belonging, homelessness, the effect of luck and chance on lives, neighbourliness, community, exclusion from community, customs, familiarity and strangeness, human and non-human homes.
14 poems caught my eye because of an interesting take on the theme, or because of particularly strong expression. This group of poems, my shortlist, had something to say and said it well. In various ways they opened a new window on an old view. Their poets had polished that window, so to speak, and the view sparkled.
Eventually I had to make some final choices. All the commended poets wrote impressive poems—in another competition or with another judge any of these could have been a place-getter. The placed poems win their prizes because they withstood my multiple critical readings. They moved me, appealing to my heart and my mind by choosing words with flair, and by integrating what was being said with how it was said. Poetry is, after all, that most integrative of arts. Congratulations to you all.
Judge’s comments on the winning poems:
black and blue like night by Molly Crighton (First Senior)
Molly Crighton’s winning poem in the Senior section was instantly engaging. The crafting of this poem was a stand-out, with phrasing, punctuation and line breaks carefully distilled into a calmly direct, observant voice. It’s a trim poem, nothing superfluous here, but it carries the reader surely through several disturbing revelations to its devastating conclusion. A fine work: profoundly moving and technically impressive.
Voyage from Home by Joanna Liu (First junior)
I loved Joanna Liu’s winning Junior section poem for similar reasons, and for her control of a single image (a leaf) in the service of a metaphor for leaving home (leaving, perhaps we could say, the family tree). What initially seems a small, gentle poem gets bigger and more courageous with every read.
Ghost of the Past by Catherine Davidson (Second Senior)
Catherine Davidson’s second-placed poem speaks to the way the past always infiltrates and affects the present, for good or for bad. A well-crafted, well-trimmed poem whose detailed images blossom in the mind as we read.
Home for the lucky by Isobel Fraser (Second Junior)
This poem considers the effect that luck and chance have on our lives. It’s an acrostic poem in which each letter of the word HOME is used to set up a new image. Often acrostic poems end there, but Home for the Lucky does much more than merely complete the exercise. It tells a story by skilfully extending each of its imaginative images with rich concrete detail. Strong and compassionate work.
The girl sitting next to me by Jamie MacKenzie (Third Senior)
Set in a classroom, this poem meditates on the difficulty of living and working alongside people who don’t necessarily share the same values. Stanza by stanza the poem deepens its engagement with the concept of ‘judgement’. The poem teases out its initial stance to gradually develop a far more nuanced, forgiving and self-knowing awareness. Powerful expression of an important issue.
Dear people of Syria by Holly Friedlander (Third Junior)
This poem imagines itself into the hearts and minds of the Syrian people. Empathetic, thoughtful, and moving. A fine example of why a poem, composed careful line by careful line, can be so much more eloquent than a rushed-out letter to the editor. And so a fine example of why poetry matters.