Carol Ann Duffy was the guest judge for the 4th annual Sarah Broom Poetry Award announced today at the Auckland Writers Festival. There is a generous monetary gift for the winner but the event also showcases the work of three New Zealand poets.
Carol Ann read a selection of Sarah’s poems after underlining ‘the vital sense of importance of poetry to Sarah’s wellbeing.’ It was the best reading of Sarah’s work I have heard and I felt with each poem I was in a chamber of return. I returned to the exquisite craft of Sarah as a wordsmith, to our conversations, to the effect her writing has upon me.
We got to hear the three poets read before the winner was announced. I would have liked the judge to comment upon the entries as a whole, the posts she selected and the winner but for some reason she refrained from doing so. Is this the way it is done overseas?
Hearing the three read, however was a highlight. Hera was up first and I started firing words in my notebook: anarchic, surreal, funny, acutely funny, cranky, provocative, sharp, torrent-of-consciousness-like in a finely crafted way which seems like an oxymoron, personal, confessional, sweetly fluent, spikey-fluent. I could have listened to her for hours.
Cliff Fell was a marked shift in register and preoccupation. I was hooked on the rhythms to begin with, undulations of words like tidal flows; the detail accruing and dilating. There was an infectious quiet energy that drew me in – I wanted to sit down and reread the sumptuous poems on a page at a dawdle pace. I loved ‘The Pin Cushion,’ ‘The Song of a Pebble.’ And the sonnets with their random rhymes.
Finally Sandi King read. I wasn’t familiar with her work but her poems drew upon love and memory with reverence and reverberations. Lines stood out and marked the writing as both personal and reflective. ‘Words are flutter boards beneath the surface.’ ‘It has taken a lifetime of tides to accept yourself.’
Hera admitted she had entered the competition as she wanted Carol Ann Duffy to read her work. This is indeed a special thing for those who enter each year: the chance to have an offshore judge spend time with our local poetry.
Grateful thanks to Michael and Sarah, and the AWF, for showcasing New Zealand poetry at this event. The Award is a vital part of and for our writing communities. Good to see the VUP folk in the crowd backing their authors.