2023 Winners

2023 Winner - Judith Rodriguez Open Prize

Jenny Pollak| Portrait inside a portrait

In which a beetle enters the poem like an anti-hero
and circumnavigates the perimeter of my book.
The yellow towel like a cloud. The actual cloud
(which has covered the sun, so that I look up,
wanting to know for how long),
like a cadenza.

I want to sing like Kaveh Akbah as he's breathing
life into a self portrait as a deer.
Who startles me into looking
so dearly I can't help seeing Blake
naked in the flowerbeds.

I'm curious about how easily the legs of the beetle,
which seem engaged in some kind of cleaning ritual,
enter a poem ostensibly about nothing.

Sometimes a desert is a fine garden.

On the beach my towel is candidly itself.
I think my blood can match it pulse for pulse
for colour. For how it warms me.
I love it when I see the shadow flying
fast in front of me
but no bird in sight anywhere.

A man and his dog are the morning
doing its best to be kindly.

The earth says yes to everything
the sky offers.

I remain silent.

The light stays constant, but in the distance.

I understand the swallows because they fly freely
but remain small.

When the dog shakes its body there's a sea in it
that wasn't there before.

The nasturtiums in the vase have dropped their heads,
but it isn't like death.

The plastic sheep lies still on the bench.

The swallow, single, is not as beautiful as yesterday
in a pair.

The soup is unfinished. My work
is unfinished.

The phone threatens to ring, but doesn't.

Oh, Soul.
You are tired now.

You tell me the way in isn't through the eyes,
though you have feasted

all day with your elbows on those twin sills,
and still your appetite is undiminished.

[1] The second stanza references Kaveh Akbar's poem Forfeiting my Mystique

Octopus, she is all legs,

peripatetic, asking to go home, home. 

Octopus, she is all arms, reaching

for she does not know what, touching unfamiliar

rocks and coral of the hospital ocean.

She asks me to bring her more nighties,

notebooks, pens, more pens, and nothing serves

to satisfy, and men come in, she says,

and look at her with her clothes off,

and no, she won’t take her medication,

three doctors told her to throw her medication

in the rubbish bin, and I see she has three hearts

now she is an octopus, three conflicting hearts

speaking in different moments

through her one mouth. Mostly brain now, she thinks so hard

of how to get home, doggedly doing exercises,

the physio’s ticket out, though no specialist

will release her into the wild, in octopus ink

she makes notes of everything with shaking mollusc hands,

her colour-changes flash distress to me,

when I tidy her grotto her threat-display pulses livid,

don’t touch my things, she yells, and inky thunderclouds

roar out from her, and as I drive away

the adrenaline of relief is as exhausting

as the adrenaline of duress. I emerge from ocean

into her empty house, and, going through papers,

find an old drivers’ licence it’s prudent to destroy,

and cutting it up, her head splits into three,

the paranoia, the fighting animal, the love,

love has her dear face, but she is pelagic

and at abyssal depths, I have no line to hook and drag her up,

and would she then be saved, or drowned in air.

2023 Runner Up -Judith Rodriguez Open Prize

Esther Ottaway | My mother becomes a cephalopod

2023 Judith Rodriguez Open Prize - Commended

2023 Judith Rodriguez Open Prize - Highly Commended

Beauty Tips for Survival - Tug Dumbly
Our Father's Hands - Elizabeth Anne Gleeson

Feeding time (or something)Jenny Pollak

European Union - Dominic Symes

Depth Sounding - Ella Jeffery
Folkways - Tug Dumbly

Forestry — and my father - Shoshanna Rockman

From the banks, or a bough - Alisha Brown

Fuschl am See - Kerry Greer

Outside the chicken shop, near the station - Tug Dumbly

portrait of an artist as a 21st century woman - Samantha Bews

The Futon Perspective - Melanie Birtchnell

The Hunter's Child -  Suzi Mezei

Note: Highly Commended and Commended poems will be available in the Woorilla Poetry Prize Booklet 2023 available March 2024

2023 Winner - Louise Rockne Youth Prize

Naomi Ling | Still Portrait of Dementia

In A-ma’s recurring dream,

she brazenly holds on

as I arc over the sky.

My body is a domesticated goose—

my mouth slender & yawning.

A-ma stretches out both arms

to latch onto something real, something tangible

she can bring home & simmer in soup.

When she wakes

she scolds the egg yolk moon

at her window, cowering like it’s forgotten

her name. How could it? Like the wind

that’s carried her for years

trailing off steadily

in an exhale.

I introduce myself, give her prayer beads, dress her in layers.

A-ma complains of head lice

so I sift through her hairs, wisp by wisp,

all uprooted from Guangzhou soil.

Her scalp: a small child in my hands

with an umbrella for the rain. I insist

she looks young, she does, and she beams.

I like to meditate on what motherhood is—

a fortune cookie, maybe,

with nothing on the slip of paper

but a promise to one another.

Simple, really, the lines etched

on her face. When I gaze for too long

they spell out something

I don’t want to know, don’t want to hear.

By noon A-ma recalls

what she left behind, all those moons ago:

her brother swaying under a cherry blossom

tree—or was it the other way around?—

the lone abacus on her grade school desk.

Math was never her strong suit

nor mine, but she begs to teach me

anyways. Chives peppering paper

as she multiplies with calloused fingers,

I don’t tell her I finished my homework hours ago.

I don’t tell her everything,

just enough to get us by.

Did I tell you I dreamed, and you were a goose?

I’m laughing & shaking & sifting through

memories as I reply. The wind hears me

ask her to tell it again.

2023 Runner Up -Louise Rockne Youth Prize

Tiffany Aurelia| Gili Vignette

All morning, I’ve been swimming in light: bones

like paper boats sailing the expanse. I love the way

water holds the shape of the body — tender with

urgency as if to protest weightlessness, as if to hold

the heart against the hippocampus. I am synonymous

with the water, synonymous with memory, which means

I was everywhere. Anywhere, really. So I swim down,

resurface into the backseat of the family minivan,

where I hear a mid-solstice folk album for the first

time and run the radio down to its last chord. Somehow,

I’ve learned to hold every melody before it fades

into requiem. Recognize the Bali Sea dripping with stars,

the horizon sleeping against time. Where I am six again,

in a jumpsuit the color of spring canaries and braiding

every tree branch between the seeds of my palms.

Across this land, I leave sand-scaled footprints and

recall my future. I am young — everything is magic.

2023 Winner - CALD Section 

Yogita Sharma | Unraveling the unspoken

i bleed emotions thicker than the quicksand that consumes my ever glowing heart

those same beetles that die and grow, wither and flow, on the same bedrock as the dreams i had
when i was six
those same ants that creep up the table just as your vines crawl through the nooks of my unguarded
i cracked the knuckles of my broken bones in a forgotten haze of what happened the night before
maybe one day i will learn to leave things alone

2023 Runner Up- CALD Section 

Angelina Mei | A surname of plum blossoms

My name was Mei Chusiming
A surname handed down from my father
Then a memoir of my mother’s
And a wish to wonder at the world
Like a bright, illuminating star
And an idea unfathomed
My name is Mei Yiran
Mei, like plum blossoms
And Yiran like an idiom,
The proper expression,
Lingering like soothing night in the blinding light of the star;
Yiranzide: the appearance of joy and contentment
The search for joy brought us to Australia
My surname of plum blossoms
was now said last.
They said my name in a funny way
And so I did too
I became Yiran Mei
My primary school teacher didn’t understand
Yiran Mei.
Yi. Ran. Mei.
She paused at my name.
“Do you want to be called Manny instead?”
My tongue was yet to wrap itself around English
I wasn’t able to tell her that boys would laugh at me in class
I wasn’t able to tell her that I am Yiran Mei.
I hated Manny.
Manny didn’t bless me to a sunlit path
Manny wasn’t a wish from my mother
Manny came from a teacher I can no longer remember
I lost Manny when I moved to Canberra
She was left behind
Sitting on the burning metal benches
Gripping her dictionary among english speaking friends
Their place, taken by my uncle
who silently showed me the website: ‘100 names for your little girl’
He told me to choose one
I remember thinking I already have a name
I remember not being brave enough to tell him
My cousin chose a name for me
She liked Angelina
My uncle said it sounded like a princess.
I didn’t feel like a princess.
Not a star, not joy
And certainly not a princess
I was Angelina Mei when I received my first ever award
I was called to the stage
But it wasn’t my name
‘Angelina… me-eye?’
I stood up mechanically.
I walked to the smiling teacher.
I accepted the award.
The resentment in me whispered
You already have my name
Why are you taking this too?
And something within me answered
as I creased the laminated paper:
It would never end
Until the final petal of the plum blossoms
Outside my window
I am Angelina.
I never introduced myself with my last name.
I never saw Yiran again.
Not on my homework,
Not on my test paper, my certificates, my reports, my NAPLAN results, my school mark for OC…
I left her behind in the humid sports halls of a primary school
blurred with heat and suffocating shame.

I forgot what Yiran meant.

I don’t remember having a longer name than Angelina.
My name is Angelina.
I am in year five; a gifted class with gifted students.
But all I could see were people with mismatched last names like me.
The teacher learned to say Mei.
…Mei, Cui, Xu, Zhang, Zheng, Yao, Zhou…
Yao joked about being called ‘yay-oh’ by his other teachers
I remembered the day ‘me-eye’ was called to stage
I spoke Chinese to Cui
I remembered my mother tongue, and he remembered that he wasn’t always ‘kwee’
I taught Chinese to Xu, and wrote her Chinese name as she described the sounds to me
I remembered each stroke again, word by word by word
I remembered Yiran again in year 6,
Because there I had found people willing to remember her too.
The plum blossoms bloomed outside my window
For the first time in two long years…
My name is Angelina Yiran Mei
I see Yiran sometimes, like a middle name on my awards
Like a last name too complicated to be spoken
Like an afterthought, trapped between two parenthesis
I am Yiran, and if you remember me,
I will remember you.

2023 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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