2022 Winners

2022 Winner - Judith Rodriguez Open Prize

Tug Dumbly | Pod

We came up the dune and saw them, way down on the surfline, 

these dark specks all along the beach. 

Birds fell to them like dandruff, and more birds were coming in 

from behind us on the dune top, crying through the metal sky – 

Gulls, Skewers, Shags, like fighter planes to some Dunkirk scene. 

And not just seabirds but Crows and Ravens too, Corvids drawn  

from miles to this peninsula, with its pubic Mohawk of scrub.   

We skidded down the dune and the gritted wind hit our legs. 

It was no joke, this Summer. 

We just wanted to get the Pippies and get out quick. 

'Cargo spill', someone says. 

But up close we saw they were coffins, hundreds of them, 

thousands maybe, going forever down the blade of beach,

melting into the brinehaze of the coming storm. 

Some were beached high and others rocked rough in the foam, 

knocking like trawlers on a schizo swell. They were mostly adult, 

but there were child ones too, and baby ones in pink and blue.

We tried pushing a couple back out to sea, but were fighting  

an onshore Easterly and turning tide. 

Kelp wrapped our legs and tripped us, waves smashed into us, 

soaking us straight to frozen bone. 

If you battled a box through the breakers it just got punched back in. 

It was hopeless. And they had no will left to fight.

‘Lookout!’ someone yells

and this big dumper chunders in and skittles us, rolls us under like rags. 

The wave takes the coffin we’re steering and spits it high. 

It comes down hard, like a caber, on the shingle, and splits and spills 

its guts – little foam balls, hundreds of them, an Esky lid, a bong, 

water pistol, condom, bait packets, tumbleweeds of fishing line,  

bottles, pallet banding, thong … plastic shit of all kinds.   

Dead fish too, and a couple of gulls, one with a rusty hook 

through its rotten black skull. 

And masks – 

yeah, dozens of slimy green facemasks … 

all this stuff spewing from the coffin, and from other boxes too, 

washing up in a necklace of trash all down the shore.  

We forgot the bait. Just got back up the dune to the car. 

We never talked on the drive, but knew we weren’t going to 

say nothing. Not today. We stopped at the store to get some rum 

and tried to be quick. But Tilly Mack was up a ladder outside his shop. 

He called us over, the jolly fat fuck. 

‘Weh-hell! You fellas bin havin’ a time of it! What’s the go?’ 

The red pan of his face looked down at us, soaked and shivering like rats. 

‘Just gettin’ some bait, Tilly’. 

He was stapling up bunting and its little flags snapped in the wind. 

Other shops were decked with streamers and balloons. 

The street stalls were getting set, and we could hear the town band 

farting away behind the Progress Hall. The parade started in an hour 

and we didn’t want to spoil anyone’s fun, not today. 


You’re closing down like a shop in the bad part of town

where nobody passes by, and nothing’s available anymore

on a list long as the night. You dream about the layers that still protect

your failing heart, like guards that won’t be told their king is dying.

Epicardium, myocardium, endocardium. You dream the full weight of the organ

lost in the backyard amidst the spearmint-coloured grass, then suddenly

inside, on your dining room table. And you think of the Sunday roasts 

your mother used to make, hands around the raw and bloody meat, rubbing in 

garlic and herbs. And of your father up against the shed, hand across his chest 

not to swear or pledge, but to quiet down the galloping fear of death.

You dream of deep-sea diving, a kink in your oxygen tank, and up above the 

barely visible circle of light that will lead you back. And of the octopus with its three 

hearts, biding its time on the ocean floor. This physical world of ridicule and reason

hope held at arm’s length, like a scapegrace relative you admire but rarely see. 

You wake up hot and gasping, the curtains move like kids in sheets, wild at your window.

When the phone rings, the world outside seems suddenly relit. But it could be just the

moon, fallen to earth on this early morning of possibility, where the atmosphere seems thicker, and the somatic landscape will steady as you dress. They have your heart

it’s in a box, reanimated and active now with donor’s blood. Its own nervous system

forty thousand buzzing neurons. You’re frightened of it, little imposter playing dress

up. But you long for it too, and on the drive in your wife stares straight ahead, her 

hands gripping and ungripping the steering wheel. At red lights she glances your

way. She’s scared you’ll wake up loving someone else. You’ve waited five 

years. This heart will wait for fourteen hours. You’ve played it out a thousand 

times. The opening of the rib cage, bones moving away like roads on a map to

different towns. Your body preparing to broadcast the beat. The old heart 

agreeing to leave. The new one a lottery. Foreign. Rich as a stew. Anonymous

valentine lying in wait for the tinman. You move slowly toward it now, your wife 

sticks to back roads, slowing so much at every bend you almost stop. 

At hospital, before you lie down, they show it to you. You remember reading in 

the Guinness World Records, that a transplanted heart has survived for thirty-five 

years inside a man in Ontario. And now, as sleep comes, you wonder about 

the donor. About cellular memory. Will you wake up knowing how he died? Or if he 

had a sister, will you open your mouth to let her name out? Or find yourself craving

a food you’ve never liked? The sudden ending to a book you’ve never read? 

The surgeon stands over you, modern day Frankenstein, trying to get the monster right. 

You dream the heart’s electromagnetic field, of all the ambulances you’ve ever 

ridden in, side by side in a darkened lot. Jacked up. Waiting for parts. You dream this very

morning as you leave the house behind in the rear-vision mirror. The donor’s sister 

standing at the end of the driveway by the wattle tree. Her hands are cupped around

her mouth as she calls after you. She’s saying that she hopes you get the tenderness. 

All the tenderness that was suddenly stopped. She’s calling, then waving, then gone. And then you’re alone. Right atrium, left atrium. Right ventricle, left ventricle. Flooding the body

with life. 

2022 Runner Up -Judith Rodriguez Open Prize

Lucy Williams | Heart in a box

2022 Winner - Louise Rockne Youth Prize

Jenny Gu | Verisimilitude

because i want to preserve myself as someone else — happy

because i want to preserve myself as anything but this.

they say that no two people are exactly the same and yet

we all have the hobby of playing pretend.

playing in our smokescreen eternities, lost in the flickering

ashes that sputters and sparks and vanishes from the tip

of a freshly snuffed cigarette, and triumphant, we grasp

at the embers and laugh when our fingers emerge bloody;

singed, but it is only a game. a game where we rip away parts

of each other, tearing away scarred flesh from bone, until we are

nothing more than patchwork souls with stitched up hearts

that beat futilely in our chests. they mirror me and

i reflect what i see in them and who are we but two

crude mockeries of perfection, trying to paint ourselves until

we shine, bright enough for glory, bright enough for you?

( go on, feral creature.

won’t you go look into that mirror again and smile at this victory of yours?

do not preserve yourself as you were, a monstrosity clawing at every crooked

imperfection that stained your skin. preserve yourself as you are — happy. )

and so we become one of the many flawed players indulging in

the flawless destruction of ourselves, trading our little, vain realities

for truer pretences. porcelain in our bones, metal in our skin,

blood in our mouths — but it already hurts a little less

( go on.

this is what you wanted isn’t it?

preserve yourself as you are, beautiful and untouched.

preserve yourself as anything but this. )


What was the subject of and the inspiration for your poem and why? Make close reference to the poem.

My poem is about a persona who wants to be someone else and metaphorically takes apart themself and imitates

others, trying to be the person that they wish they were and burying the person they were born as, but they can

never reach the ideal. I was inspired by the fact that everyone wants, or has wanted to change something about

themselves at one point of their lives. The cause of the persona’s self hatred is never explained and left up to the

reader’s imagination so that they can relate to it more.

The general theme of this poem is society’s role in identity, or the lack of thereof. There are two main motifs in

this poem that make up the theme, the first one being the eventual loss of self identity as the persona

metaphorically becomes a ‘ghost’. In the phrase ‘ashes that sputters and sparks and vanishes’, ashes symbolise the

persona’s former self and when they vanish, it symbolises that the persona has succeeded in removing the person

that they once were. This idea is carried on in phrases such as ‘we rip away parts of each other’, where the word

choice of rip could also mean rest in piece to their former self (a form of dark humour and wordplay, both of

which are prevalent in postmodernist poetry). As well as this, the word choice of ‘we’ means that a lot of people

are like this.

The second motif is how the persona can never reach the ideal standard of a person. This is seen in phrases such

as ‘a crude mockery of perfection’, showing how they’re still not ‘up to standard’ and in ‘bright enough for you’,

you represents society, showing how we all want to achieve perfection but how we can never get there. There is

another voice in brackets that calls them a ‘divine creature’ shortly after this. This voice represents society, who

doesn’t refer to them as a person but rather a creature, which is a term frequently used to convey scorn or pity.

They mock the fact that the persona’s goal at the start of the poem was to be happy, hence showing the readers

that the persona is not. The phrases ‘porcelain in our bones, metal in our skin, blood in our mouths’ are

juxtaposed with ‘but it already hurts a little less’. Anyone can tell that having either of the three are not

particularly nice but the persona treats it like a gift — the fact that it makes them beautiful somehow ‘lessens’ the

pain. The poem ends with the juxtaposed phrases of ‘preserve yourself as you are’ and ‘preserve yourself as

anything but this’, showing how there will always be a changing ideal in society, and no matter what you do to

change yourself for it, you will never reach that ideal.

What style/genre did you choose to write in and why?

I chose to write in post-modernism free verse because it gave me the most freedom and allowed me to play with

structure. I embodied this in forms of distorted time, fragmented structure and wordplay.

Select 2-3 poetic techniques typical of your style/genre you created and explain how they work to convey your ideas.

A caesura is used at the start of the poem to place emphasis on the fact that the lines were not formatted in a

fragmented fashion, showing the sanity that the persona had before and breaks the flow of the text, making the

reader think about the change. It is also used at the end, highlighting the futility of the persona’s actions.

Another technique that features prominently in my poem is irony, such as in the title itself. The title,

verisimilitude means the appearance of being true or real, which is ironic because the whole poem is about the

imitation and becoming make believe. Another example is in ‘preserve myself’ at the beginning of the poem,

which is ironic because by changing themselves into someone else, they are no longer preserving 'themselves' but

rather fragments of everyone — none of those fragments being themselves.

2022 Runner Up -Louise Rockne Youth Prize

Eartha Davies| Entanglement

An old man took my hand and
held it to his cheek. Feel the rivulets,
he said, how each thumbprint warms
a liquidation of crinkled flesh. This is you,
he said: a constellation of filaments, woven by time
and her pencil of chalk. And then he lay his hand
on my cheek, nails like sea mirrors, to feel the warmth,
and the cloying skin essence, and all that taunts
those pregnant with youth. It is a blessing, he said, this
melting into entanglement: a dawn, a dusk, a web of
being and becoming. And together we wept – not for
the moth that had nestled into our shared lap, nor the
light unfurling on my blouse – but for the hymn
of earth’s unities, and the silence of her departures.


2022 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


to witness.                                                             

When I have had enough of this realm

Quite too often



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


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  


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



his          ashes



2022 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.

2021 Awards Ceremony

Competition Opens  |  1st June 2024

Competition Closes | 30th September 2024


Awards Ceremony - Hybrid Event: 

November 2024

 Competition & Award Dates

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