Henry Kendall Poetry Award

Each year the Central Coast Poets of New South Wales (Australia) conduct the Henry Kendall Poetry Award. Kendall (1839-1882) was a nineteenth century Australian author and bush poet who had a difficult personal life but whose books of poetry achieved considerable acclaim.

Kendall’s poems invariably described Australian settings and situations. Here is an extract from Kendall’s poem The Last Of His Tribe:

Will he go in his sleep from these desolate lands,
Like a chief, to the rest of his race,
With the honey-voiced woman who beckons and stands,
And gleams like a dream in his face –
Like a marvellous dream in his face?

The 2017 Henry Kendall Poetry Award was judged by Jean Kent who has published five collections of poetry. Her awards include the Josephine Ulrick Poetry Prize and the Dorothy Porter Prize. In judging the contest, Jean was looking for poems that delight, show a high level of craft and exhibit a genuinely individual voice. The winning poem, Margaret Olley’s Flannel Flowers, by Vanessa Page certainly meets these criteria.

Page’s winning poem uses rich language, where words flow seamlessly, to depict both a saltwater and a freshwater environment; one world in which the writer grew up, and another which she has learned to love. An extract from the poem:

. . . of the coastal flannel flowers: the way they spoke, perfectly wild
in a fluted cream jug, spilling and existing in no particular arrangement.

Effortlessly beautiful in the same way one’s own country can be . . .

Gillian Telford’s entry Not Yet (one of the Commended poems) combines strong imagery and perfect pacing to create and sustain an evocative mood:

. . . her presence
so small she barely stirred the honeycomb weave
of her blanket; her visage wasted, bones brittle,
a bundle of kindling, half-buried in snow.

In late 2017, Central Coast Poets released an anthology comprising entries to the Henry Kendall Poetry Award plus additional poems from Central Coast writers. It is titled ear to earth: An Anthology of Australian Poetry 2017.

Ear to Earth

In addition to the awarded poems, a further 40 of the almost 400 entries to the Henry Kendall Poetry Award were selected for inclusion in the anthology. These additional poems included my entry to the contest titled A Fish in the Sand. Here’s an extract from the poem:

Despite this, despite its transient nature, despite having
The look of freeze-dried coffee granules waiting for water
I’m proud of my fish
And I’m pleased it’s not for everyone, not trending on social media
Not immortalised on the world wide web
But just a personal matter, between me and the sand.

Copies of the ear to earth anthology can be purchased online from the Central Coast Poets website.