5 March 2024

The Sudden Writing Prize 2023 Winner – Maz Howard

In 2023, Express Media worked with AAWP in judging the Sudden Writing Prize. Below is the winning piece, ‘this is the earth’s Alarm system going off’ by Maz Howard. You can read the judges’ report and runner-ups here.

this is the earth’s Alarm system going off

Maz Howard

After Chris Jordan’s Midway


this is the Reckoning. me         little red           in the big grey hands; i was born into the era of destruction, of revolution between ash-blackened lips,           the earth unmaking: one cracked ribcage and a disconnected heart. i was born into a litter of one billion, handheld from the moment i entered the world             born hollow and full all at once so i would always know i was capable of both. i was born contradictory: plastic and metal                                       flimsy and dangerous

always the spark and never the flame               into a world disconnected and inhospitable to difference, so i was born                                  Shatterproof.

this is the Loneliness. me   little harbinger               changing hands like legal tender, kissing heads unfamiliar, popping cherries like i want fullness but every time i am a little  emptier. little me        factory-made and sailed two oceans by the time i was three (hours); me with

nine hundred ninety-nine million nine hundred ninety-nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine siblings                        growing lonely like a Tumour, like something displaced, built heftier than the destruction that birthed me. second skin i am                    pre-packaged                           pretty on the shelf and one warm mouth bringing the end days,                          slow     indifferent.       it is what i was born to do.

this is the Othering. me            little death       in a lover’s hand, always destined to burn out doing what i loved most, always    a flint strike from apocalyptic. this is not the end                     not yet; this is   emptiness; this is spitting Butane at the hand that feeds. i am corpse-like, half-drowned and       how easily forgotten: this me, this little red heart, this manmade world born to spark up and how                       succinct           to have it end underwater      washed up

cough heavy in my plastic skin. i am disposable and everlasting at the same time; i am thrown away by the hand that made me, no flicker left in my lonely throat; i am                                   never more foreign than here                             now: human hand raised to be             Suffering, unbreakable in avian gizzard.

this is the Alarm. this is end days. this is the job as i was born to do it. this is the world as grey hands have made it. and this is me  little dinner  coughed up in lonely mouths. this   is the message:

“if you see me              weep.”

Author Bio:

Maz Howard is an emerging prose and poetry writer on Kaurna land. Their work has previously been published in Slinkies 2022 and Making Tracks zine. Recently graduated from university, they now spend most of their time putting the kettle on to boil.

Photography by Chris Jordan. Midway, CF000478; Midway Atoll, 2009.

The Sudden Writing Prize was co-judged by AAWP and Voiceworks.