Previous Winners

2021 Winner - Judith Rodriguez Open Prize


Simone King | Joining Planet City

After the short film ‘Planet City’ by Liam Young, which
imagines a future megacity created in response to the
climate crisis. Planet City houses ten billion people, while
the rest of the world is freed for rewilding and handed back
to Traditional Owners.


You can’t get past the darkness, morning seeping
through your only window is the night’s afterthought.
Gazing into murk, the apartment-cliff opposite flickers
awake, square-by-square with LED light. Thousands of
lives stacked – sleeping, making love, peering at
pixelated faces, arguing with parents they can’t forgive.

Soon, your daughter, swollen with life, will ascend to
join you, leaving Wurundjeri Country for good. Soon,
it will all be handed back. You imagine her standing on
her front lawn, mapping to memory what she will miss

open sky

papery Melaleuca bark

whistling Casuarina needles.

When her time comes, she will join you. A tuft of nearnothing, she will accrete to the skin of this creature/tower of recycled silicon, regret, algae, neon, heart beats and hope. Her window will frame a solar field, stolen slivers of sunlight dancing. You tell yourself she will smile, that she will think of the upside

eucalypts outside Planet City

sucking carbon to split concrete

with crowbar roots.

You wake from a sun-soaked dream and goddammit you need sky. Elevator up 165 levels to a wisp of soiled cloud. Confetti falls through searching fingers.
Yesterday, powdery paints of Holi festival exploded on screens. Laughing faces glittered with garish green, pink, yellow. Today, the rooftop air vibrates with
ommm. But your limbs ache, your stomach churns with  knowing your granddaughter will not taste, will not feel

cold rush of ocean, not see
 
shimmering sweep of milky way.

Beside you, a gathered group weeping words fossil fuel
generation… saw great change… he was so sorry. An
urn tipped over the edge. Ash floats into confetti,
sooting pastels, spins, sinks past steel, concrete, faces
pressed against glass. Flaky remains of bones on a long
earthbound journey. They settle in the end as flecks on
algal lakes, dust on corn crops, doused in hot pink light.


2021 Runner Up -Judith Rodriguez Open Prize


Alisha Brown | An Ontology of Morning

first, the kookaburra

giddy for another breath to laugh upon

and then his white-feathered friends

skimming like pale stones

between gum tree silhouettes


god or something equally rare

thumbs the envelope of sea and sky

with that golden seal

and between the twitching wiregrass

a soft rock hums an invitation

to a lizard’s belly


tell me where the suffering lives

for it is not here

where eyelids bloom in their baskets

and some precious part of me

is plucked alive again

without asking


only in this shade of innocence

can my ribs remember

holding older shapes

a warrior

a waratah

a string of weeping sap

who creeps toward a possum’s tongue

or dries her eyes on a treesnake’s coiled skin


dawn cannot know grief or loneliness –

it is too busy blushing

and the native bees are too busy making honey 

to hesitate


it is now, then

that the beginning begins


it is now

that stars explode

just to land a single pearl of water on your fingertip


every dream I’ve ever had

was born between a birdcall and a bilby’s ear

that sweet pink thing

turned shy to the eastern shoreline

for morning’s kiss


2021 Winner - Louise Rockne Youth Prize


Sophie Szew | Promps For My Next Poem


1. Write a poem about how you would love to write a poem, but you can’t help but waste your time thinking about ripping off your 8th-grade flowery purple stripy wallpaper. Maybe you’d replace it with yellow. It’d be cool to be in the middle of a short story that will forever change the face of feminism. Maybe if you had a face to change, you’d stop picking at yours


2. Write a poem about how you were just distracted by the stiffness of the calluses on your feet. It reminds you of when you used to screw the balls of your feet into the carpet until your feet were nice and crunchy and the indent on the carpet looked like it Tasted. So. Good.


3. Write a poem about how staring at this computer screen gives you a migraine, but you’ve had writer’s block for far too long to risk getting inspiration from the gel inside the Advil capsules and writing about how it’s “richer than the sky.”


4. Write a poem about how the sweatshirt you are wearing is the only one you didn’t donate when you turned 18 and decided that clothes were a social construct, and that you’d rather be Eve before God shattered her shell and all that was left of it were fingernails.

 
5. Write a poem about how you haven’t had long nails in over two weeks. You still have hot pink streaks of Kiss Beauty Nail Glue on your left ring finger to remind you of when youwere married to adulthood.

 
6. Write a poem about how you smudge pink lip liner under your waterline every day

 
7. around 2 pm to bring out the green in your eyes. Your mom hates it because she thinks it
8. makes you look sick. At 14 you would’ve taken that as a compliment and then flushed your vocal cords down the toilet because that meant that you didn’t look sick all this time despite having snot dripping from the cracks in the corners of your lips.


9. Write a poem about how your messy room makes the air in your chest compress into the shape of microphone feedback. You’d let it out through your mouth, but your lips are still
tender


2021 Runner Up -Louise Rockne Youth Prize


Anna Meister| Months Until I Turn 16

October
A children’s book with salt
water taffy words reshapes
the little one’s imagination
into a discovery I’d rather not
remember but write down into a
persistent tale read to loves before
they rest at night and my
kindergarten best friend hung a dull
daylight
but gorgeous
moonlight
charm bracelet on
her rolling backpack.
For sentimental’s sake stop making
her cry before naps because she couldn’t
keep the
lightning from caressing her eardrums.
Unlike me, her gymnastic chalk
hands
grab onto the rings of the superior August
moons.
Bottles pelt her back if you see
God tell him
to smell the sweet aroma of champagne that
bubbled before the other.
Queen Victoria wears a satin silk veil to
cover her blue-light dental work and
waxy
lips that send red sparks to all the children
20 | Woorilla Poetry Prize 2020 Woorilla Poetry Prize 2020 | 21
in London and gray tree fingers grow moss
to reach up into my glass of water I get in
the middle of the night to
invade my middle
-afternoon daydreams.
Like beautiful strangers in couples looking at
lit-up houses during Christmas ornaments
you’re a boring and slow river giving me
insomnia.
Love letters from third-grade
valentines
make me feel more full than the candy that’s
attached to them.
Like snow she’s always melting from the
mountains into my glass
spaceship and
soaring into Sunday morning football layday wrinkles.
1980’s trick-or-treat vampires have
supernatural
hummingbird wings whose fluttering
rivals Tinkerbell and her blur of light
always loyal
to its heart and digital cameras that
store security
footage of the latest bank heist and I think the
robber is my neighbor’s and
I’s past lover but
my neighbor’s brother but not lover
I welcome the fire ants into my house, I let them
drink the best wine
and most fruitful dirt.
A bat hanging in an upside-down cave doubleblinded by lost weight of uneaten late night
Friday breakfast.
Imagine the leaves
shivering in the beginning
of your ear cartilage grin and 60’s
lightstops.
Screaming crickets don’t make music but noise
around our Honda we drove down yellow
flower streets.






 




               2021 Winner - CALD Section 


Ayushi Jain | He's Dead PS I'm Grieving

In the loving memory of my grandad


This world can be a gloomy place sometimes

Sometimes? I’m lying.

It doesn’t make sense when you want it to

But when it does

                                                             

It’s too

diabolical

to witness.                                                             


When I have had enough of this realm

Quite too often

             

perhaps


I disappear.

              

Don’t let them  find out 

where  I am,

I am at  Khyati’s house


And appear in my babaji’s locked 2 bedroom apartment

It’s locked because it’s up for sale

Dad said,


It won’t fetch much

but there’s no use in

Letting it be     vacant

either


I can’t imagine someone else living there.

Those white walls and that murky floor

They mean  everything.


They mean nothing,

I don’t miss him


I am not fragile,

I don’t long for his 

benignity again


It’s the quarters where he died

I try not to focus on that part,

So I divert to the memories I have cosseted.


I don’t have any memories

I don’t even remember  what he looked   like


On an eroded shelf just there above

his irreplaceable cathode-ray television

Would be a wooden carton of mangoes

Or a cardboard box of cherries.


No I am not  reminded  of   him

Every single time    I sit down to   eat


Bringing new stories he heard from strangers

He was a man of the world, a traveler.

Dad do you remember that

story babaji told about that  ring merchant?

No I didn’t ask dad that.

Babaji’s dead, we don’t miss  

him.


Domestic and unpopular villages, abandoned libraries

Those were more his tea

Why do I still remember his morning yoga routines?

Just two cloves of adrak, no sugar

Saturate it with honey until the

fragrance of the tea leaves

is rendered null and void


Always and always shall I profess

To be emotion-less and devoid of anything that makes me human

But inside I am burned and full of soot

                                                                    

A

his          ashes

tornado 

within.




               2021 Runner Up- CALD Section 


Ayushi Jain | Gone

In the loving memory of a lost childhood


Soft toys wrapped in a black cloth

Stashed in the attic, forgotten, lost.

Or thrown away in the bin

Or left behind at the last place we declared home.



Doltish haircuts and vacuous glasses

Wide eyed and open mouthed glances at the sky

at the sound of an airplane

And whispered cursing, giggling

And good-night kisses.



A thousand flamboyant hair clips

Two thousand plastic necklaces

Three thousand loose teeth

Four thousand pirouetting aampanna glasses

Five thousand miles away, absent.



Toy cars and montessori blocks

Nani’s fragile hands knitting woolen sweaters

in the noon of a hypothermic winter


Bulbous cheeks

Tumefied tonsils

Birthday cakes and gaugeable candles

Lurking outside after dark

Unaware of some predator’s eyes.



Forgotten blood vows

Broken swings

Bruised knees and bleeding ankles and cut fingers

Dead “Best friends for life”

Dead “I’ll marry you when I get a little older”


Somewhere in the stars

Long gone jubilant innocent girls and ponytails

Dead stray kittens, trampled street dogs

Rotting mangoes and cherries

Decomposing into the ground, gone.




2020 Winner - Judith Rodriguez Open Prize


Kim Waters | The Builder

Sometimes I hear the scaffolding strain,

his whistle through the plasterless rooms,

and I’m there again, seven-years-old,


watching his hands cradle a brick,

set it square, remove a spill

with the point of a diamond-shaped knife.


I remember his hair flecked with paint,

a nail purse belted around his waist,

a flat pencil, fold-up ruler


and a packet of Bex in his overall bib.

The way he’d hammer a nail, his gaze

a spirit level of concentration


as he zithered a wedge of wood with his saw.

How he’d jam one knee up against a horse,

shaved timber falling in curls


around his hobnailed boots.And the times 

he’d lift me onto his rafted shoulders

and we’d move through the whalebone rooms of a house,


him sure-footed, walking the line

of his tight-roped years and me reaching

into the open-roofed sky.

2020 Runner Up - Judith Rodriguez Open Prize

Rob Wallis | The Priest

You take the steps down to our front door

one at a time, as if your knees

buckle under the weight of prayer.


The small bag you carry

for an overnight stay, clinks.

It doesn’t sound like pyjamas,


a change of underwear, a stringent

volume on the lives of the saints

you’ve struggled, for years, to emulate.


You greet both of us with a hug,

cling on much longer than we wanted,

a candle lit for an urgent need.


In the kitchen you open the bag,

produce two bottles of wine,

a bottle of whisky. Nothing else.


This is an act of generosity.

Or it measures the religious life,

the toll it’s taken on your sexuality.


You begin our meal with a prayer,

celebrate friendship, proud, and envious,

of us, a pair of beads on your rosary.


We are reduced to a congregation.

Your sermon, eased with the blood

of Christ, is a litany of anniversaries:


the day you first met my partner

in a church. The year that he left

the seminary. And after ordination,


the stations of your cross, a thorny journey

through promotions to smaller, and smaller

parishes, a snide excommunication.

                                                                                                                                      You have devoted your life to Jesus,

now you admit you wish his name

had been Damian or Angelo or Ben.


We listen in silence to this disclosure,

not surprised, but not comfortable

in this confessional, our roles reversed.


No amount of Hail Mary’s, no blessings,

no forgiveness of sins, can compensate

for the years of sacrifice, and denial.


You leave the next morning, each step

a retreat back to seclusion, each

intake of breath a whisper withdrawn.


2020 Winner - Louise Rockne Youth Prize

Jhermayne Ubalde | Mother

4.6 billion years ago
she watched the birth of gods
a silent passenger
bones of iron forged by Chaos’ hand
she, the ichor

3.8 billion years ago
she raised up stardust with hearth-warmed palms
umbilical vents gently rocking to a volcanic beat
a primordial lullaby
In the strange, lightless trails of her womb
life took shape

400 million years ago
she ascended with the tetrapods
clinging to salt-gilded skin
her slender fingers caressing that reptilian maw
and trembling with the sweet release of breath

65 million years ago
she wept at Armageddon as
the fire rained down
the taste of copper on her tongue
the heavy bodies at her feet
sank into her grieving embrace
home

300 000 years ago
she kissed the feverish lips of
the homo sapien
walked with them out of the burning plains

Today
she scalds the earth with bitter tears
hair pulled back
jaw forced open
the noxious sludge of civilisation poured between melting lips

she lays powerless against the capitalist bed frame
screams her throat raw to the corporate pounding of the machine
a queue of pinstripe suits at the bedroom door
demanding more, more, more

swollen with the melting of glaciers
cheeks blushed red with heat
her skin peels away in flakes
she burns with her children

where colour once bloomed
and clownfish giggled amongst the shaded pines
the bleached footprints of death are all that remains

Amongst it all she mourns
the volcanic beat
the cradle song
the stirrings of life within her belly
a forgotten dream?

there are flowers in my head. they bloom between spiderweb cracks with a psychedelic sheen. honey pouring into my dreams. pollen falling onto my shoulders. you sowed weeds. little black seeds. scattered among the flowers. poison ivy. brambles. their pollen left angry red marks. they tasted like black jellybeans. like liquorice. or aniseed. you shovelled it into my throat. there was the heaving of lungs. they sprouted from my ears. they formed a noose and

whispered things. they burned my eyes so i couldn’t fall asleep. i can’t fall asleep. there were flowers in my head.


2020 Runner Up - Louise Rockne Youth Prize

Jhermayne Ubalde| Flowers

2020 Winner - Youth CALD Category

Disha Awashti | Two Worlds

Which dimension do I fit in?

The new one or the one of my kin?

I wanted the blonde hair and white skin


Like two armies raging inside of me,

Not able to decide,

Am I Australian?

Am I Indian?

Who would I be?


My roti discarded,

Because it wasn’t what the other kids ate

My name made fun of,

Because it wasn’t something like Kate


Was there something so wrong with speaking my language?

People looked at me as if it was sacrilege

I had an Indian accent

Such dissent,

Because I sounded different


Now, I look at myself in the mirror

And I think I can see myself a little clearer

Thongs and butter chicken

Barbeques and Bindi’s

I am Indian. I speak Hindi

I am Australian. I speak English.

I am me

2020 Runner Up - Youth CALD Category

Jasmin Yaxin Wu| The Princess

i want to set the record

straight about the princess.

in this story she does not

run away with the prince.


she is nine and carving initials

into the trees around the palace garden

her mother, the queen asks her

which noble prince, lord or knight

she has fallen madly in love with

and a few white lies make her so sure

it was a boy that she was thinking about


she is eleven and has begun to notice

that couples are always a pair of opposites

her mother, the queen thinks that

the princess is far too young to

understand the ways of the world

but the princess knows she is old enough to

realise why it was a girl’s face she dreamt of


she is thirteen and can say the word ally,

so she is adjacent but not part of anything

her mother, the queen believes that

the princess will soon find a gallant prince

to sweep her off her feet

however, the princess is too busy thinking

about kissing her best friend


she is fifteen and the drawbridge lowers,

as her true feelings come out

her mother, the queen considers the

rainbow to be just a phase, but surprisingly

accepts the princess’ identity all the same

the princess now understands why she

had always felt different from everyone else.


because she doesn’t want a castle

or a chest of silk gowns

she doesn’t want a kingdom

or even a golden crown


she wants to hold your hand

where everybody else can see

she wants to love without fear,

judgement or scrutiny


the word ‘gay’ begins to roll off her tongue,

and it is whispered and spoken and screamed 

to make up for all those lost years

because sometimes,

the princess doesn’t want a prince


2020 Awards Ceremony

Competition Opens | 1st June 2022

Competition Closes | 1st September 2022

 

Awards Ceremony - Hybrid Event: 

November 20 2022

 Competition Dates

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