29 August 2016

Meet the John Marsden Prize Shortlist: Poetry

This year, over 250 secondary school students from across Australia entered the 2016 John Marsden and Hachette Australia Prize for Young Writers. 15 talented young students made it on to the shortlist in categories of Fiction, Nonfiction and Poetry.

In the lead-up to announcing the winners at the 2016 Melbourne Writers Festival, we’re introducing you to each and every young writer on our list. Read on for more information about them, what they’re reading and why they love to write.

Poetry

 

13497531_924730110965824_9157365425849215961_o (2)Charlotte Head – Clarity 

What do you like about poetry?

At the risk of sounding like a pretentious ass-hat, to me poetry is one of the purest expressions of human experience. Good poetry feels like an intimate conversation, and great poetry makes me feel like I’m fully, completely understood. It’s beautiful, and I’m a tad addicted to it.

Who are your favourite writers? Or your favourite books?

My favourite poet, hands down, is Richard Siken. I’ve always loved words, but reading his collection Crush just about knocked the breath out of me, and my homage to his confessional style is pretty obvious.  I’d like to give a shout out to the Harry Potter series for being my first true love, but I’d also like to thank Tamora Pierce for proving that kick-ass female protagonists exist, and Neil Gaiman for showing me how to use my imagination. Shakespeare was also a pretty cool dude; I could quite literally go on forever.

Can you tell us a bit about your shortlisted submission?

I mean, I could. Looking at it currently, this particular incarnation of my teen angst has too many metaphors and the line breaks need fixing. But in all seriousness, I think part of poetry’s power is its ability to communicate things that transcend language. I’m not suggesting I’m anywhere near good enough for that yet, but I think the joy of reading poetry is that you essentially have the opportunity to, to commune with it.

Why did you choose to write it?

This poem was first and foremost a failed farewell gift; it then became part of a birthday present for an important friend, before evolving once again. It thankfully left behind the wince-inducing title of ‘Untouchable Parts of Me’, and became a brief source of blissful procrastination as I avoided my year twelve responsibilities. Sorry the story isn’t more inspirational; the only redeeming thing I can offer is that this poem is honest.

 


 

Nnatalieatalie Catalan – Young Ice

What do you like about poetry? 

I appreciate poetry’s ability to capture and share very specific moments, in such rich and emotive ways. So much can be expressed through language, and to me poetry is the synthesis of our thoughts, dreams and drives in word. Writing helps make the big busy world a little more solid!

Who are your favourite writers? Or your favourite books? 

My favourite books would have to be Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, Twelve by Nick McDonell, On the Road by Jack Kerouac, We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver and Jailbird by Kurt Vonnegut. I’m lucky enough to be able to say my favourite poets happen to be my friends— our school has such a rich creative writing culture, it’s hard not to fall in love with the creativity that surrounds me!!

Can you tell us a bit about your shortlisted submission? 

My submission ‘Young Ice’ is the conclusion of a dream I had last winter, in which Brisbane crumbled into a fantastical ice landscape and featured my school’s old music captain diving into a glacier. It was a bit disjointed and weird, but it felt like a film, it was just so beautiful and rich.

Why did you choose to write it?

I first wrote the poem so I could send it to my best friend as a summary of my dream- we always swap dreams, it’s inspiring and something I honestly look forward to. From then, it’s morphed into a piece which not only preserves the vivid fantasy I’d concocted (for me) but also provides me with a lot of comfort.

 


 

niamhBNiamh Brazil – The Accordian

What do you like about poetry?

I love hearing poetry read aloud. I think hearing and speaking the different words allows you to create real and tangible images that stick in your head. The sound of words and the way you put them together, I believe, is one of the most important things in poetry.

Who are your favourite writers? Or your favourite books? 

My favourite genre has to be fantasy. At the moment, I’m reading all of Jonathan Stroud’s books and they’re brilliant. I also really enjoyed the “His Dark Materials” series by Phillip Pullman and am a huge fan of pretty much anything by Patrick Ness.

Can you tell us a bit about your shortlisted submission? 

The poem I wrote, “The Accordion” was inspired by an old accordion we found in my grandparents’ house. It was choked full of dust and wouldn’t play a note but it felt like something that held memories and a history that I could explore. I know pretty much nothing about accordion playing so I drew on imagery I read in “The Book Thief” for inspiration.

Why did you choose to write it?

I’ve always been interested in the history of objects that have passed their prime. There are so many rich stories behind them that can be put down in words. For this one, I likened the accordion to a weakening and broken body but one that still has beautiful memories of its past.

 


 

Jos Alcorn

 Jos Alcorn – Memory

What do you like about poetry?

Have you ever been given a jar of bubble mixture and been told to go blow bubbles? The first bubbles you blow are clear and thick looking, fascinating but not enuough to hold the attention for more than a few seconds. If, however, you have ever tried to catch one of the bubbles already in the air on the little stick and blow more bubbles from that, you will have noticed that the bubbles containing less mixture were much more colourful than the first bubbles. That is how I think of stories and poetry. Longer, more complex pieces of writing have much more substance, and occasionally you may come across an extraordinary one, but they lack something, something that makes them beautiful and not just extraordinary. Poetry has less substance, offers less of a view of the world of the author, like a keyhole to a window, but somehow this is what makes them even more beautiful.

Who are your favourite writers? Or your favourite books?

I have many favourite authors, and I will not list them all here because I will run out of room. Suffice to say that I have very multifarious interests, as the list includes William Shakespeare, JK Rowling, Edgar Allan Poe, James Paterson and Jonothan Stroud. My favourite books at the moment (as they change regularly) are probably Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the Skulduggery Pleasant series and Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer.

Can you tell us a bit about your shortlisted submission?

The layout of this piece was supposed to be symbolic of the fading of memory over time. It was supposed to look like a poem which was once complete, and maybe even illustrated an entirely different message, but had faded and now was only partly legible. The spacing of the words is meant to be symbolic of the memories retained throughout life, with the top of the document being early life and the bottom of the document being late life. The spacing is actually reversed from the top to the bottom, which is meant to underline the similarities in memories retained between early and late life.

Why did you choose to write it?

I originally wrote this for an English assignment when we were studying Shakespeare in class. We had to write a poem on something or other, it was our choice. I am extremely good at forgetting things, so at the point when I was reading the task sheet I was cursing my memory for forgetting something or other when I thought, Hey, there’s a topic I could use. So I wrote out the words, and I formatted the spacing, and I showed it to my teacher, and she thought it was really good, so I decided to enter it in a competition. The trouble is, most competitions wouldn’t let me keep the formatting, so I had to wait about six months before I came across this competition. I touched it up a little between writing and submitting a little, but the main poem has remained the same.


 

SamuelHughesSamuel Hughes – Unmastered

What do you like about poetry?

The obvious and seditious connections to the everyday and the gratification of endless interpretations.

Who are your favourite writers? Or your favourite books?

Hemingway: A Moveable Feast, Joseph Conrad: Heart of Darkness.

Can you tell us a bit about your shortlisted submission?

It is a crude and nostalgic dialogue between a city and the environment. I have attempted to write the poem around the cityscape characters as they contemplate the ceaseless modernisation of today and its implications for tomorrow.

Why did you choose to write it?

Because environmental issues are glazed over by the endless playground rhetoric of the world’s politicians and hopefully this poem will stir some corner of our elected few to considerations toward the immediacies of such issues.


 

Check out our interviews with the Fiction and Nonfiction John Marsden and Hachette Australia shortlisted writers. Winners in each category will be announced at the Melbourne Writers Festival on September 1, so watch this space!


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