‘Poetry on the Move’ – Festival 2018 – Canberra – Prize Winner


The vice chancellor of Canberra University (Professor Deep Saini) and Paul Munden  making the announcement of the winner of the 2018 international poetry competition.

Sharing what happened on the poetry scene in Canberra last week … the Canberra University faculty of Arts and Design and the International Poetry Studies Institute have a poetry festival every year called ‘Poetry on the Move’ … and they announced the winner of their annual international competition … worth a staggering $15,000 … it attracted over 1,400 entries. The well-known poet Wendy Cope was the main judge. It was interesting to note in Wendy Cope’s assessment of the entries that poetic form was somewhat absent. The Robert Frost ‘tennis net’ set aside.

The winning poem had a religious connotation … it was a poem from the Canadian poet Michael Lavers. A poem called –

‘The angel in charge of creating Earth addresses his cohort’

An interesting title because I thought God created the Earth … maybe God delegated the task to one of his angels … let’s assume he did … well this angel now addresses the other angels of her/his cohort …

Well the other angels might have been given different tasks creating other worlds … and dare I say it better worlds …

Here is what Michael Lavers had to say about his poem –

“In my poem’s version of the story, the making of Earth has been delegated to this novice angel and his band of beginners because, I imagine, they don’t have the skills necessary to make better, more important worlds,” …

… the poem becomes about failure, the inevitability of failure, but also, I hope, the beauty of failure. There are many aspects of planet earth that could have benefited from a more expert maker, but the poem also tries to acknowledge that it is these very flaws that make this planet and the creatures on it so surprising, so unique, and so irreplaceable.”

Looking at some lines from the poem …

… the opening …
Well who cares if more important worlds have been
assigned to those more skillful, who make crusts
that never crack, or plates too fixed to creep
or jostle or explode?

… the second line is so skilful in making a such a spelling mistake considering the poem is dedicated to failure.

He then follows with the splendours of the makeshift … it is his choice and poetic description of these ‘splendours’ that must have impressed, for example when he considers the weather …

cold May wind, wailing and barbed and riven,
… and the landscape … coastlines ragged as a vulture’s wing
… and looking at the deserts …
Those patches we forgot to water?
Call them deserts, hide there all our
misbegotten dregs, the scorpions
and saltbush beds, blind rats, weird toads.

And of course the ‘splendours’ of a broken humanity are included …
no two cracked the same, some warped or knotted, bent of back,
Some dragging weak-seamed hearts towards stagnation.

It is as though humanity came from an egg … cracking so appropriate in relation to the imperfections and failure of the novice angel … cracking is used earlier in the poem in relation to the tectonic plates and the cracking of the Earth.

The last six lines (akin to a sonnet with a shift in thought) applaud the novice angel for her work and not to envy those more skilful angels … for they should be stunned by your mistakes … and ending with emphasis on the benefits of failure …

the accidents of beauty, which, once realised,
can never be forgotten or undone.

In my mind an excellent poem which makes readers contemplate the failure-world and the benefit of imperfection … and a truly award-winning choice of concept and developed in a brilliant way.

The ending so positive … the failed, broken-world astounds with beauty … the incomparable, the only world … and how fitting to end with that word beauty in mind … in my last Post there is another poem where beauty dominates …. the poem ‘Sonnet to Beauty’ by Lola Ridge. So hopefully those that are particularly broken can still appreciate the ever-present beauty in our world. I will emphasize that we are all broken to some degree!

A big thankyou to Canberra University and all those staff that continue to make this event so engaging for all those that appreciate poetry!

Reference: Poetry on the Move Website

Reference: ‘Sonnet to Beauty’ – Lola Ridge