poems and judges comments

All the poems and judges’ comments are now available for viewing on the Ipswich Poetry Feast website. Below are my poems and their accompanying comments.

Tough Love won a highly commended in the open category and also the mentorship prize.

The judge’s comments were: “Restrained and original images and language add to the power and realism of this picture of a Friday night encounter.”

Tough Love

This is big sky country
another hard-edged Friday night
hanging sweat-heavy
in a summer solstice

red moon over sugar cane tsunami

Christmas lights are
strung out and burning hard
in the beer garden

and every man has a dust storm
to spin inside this yarning circle

This is big sky country
another hard-edged Friday night
and I’m prickling at the idea of snakes
sliding through the sugar cane

it feels dangerous

this is where you find me –
six foot two and broken
with industrial hands
that could wrench open the sky

you tell me about
being eighteen and full of piss
daring yourself in there
between sugar cane and hope
sleeveless and legless
back before this mean-eyed town
burned you up

This is big sky country
red moon over sugar cane tsunami
where maybe Friday nights
compensate for an absence of faith

and every storyteller
is a coiled back punch-drunk
building slowly in a coal seam

or maybe it’s as simple as this

as wondering
if you’ll dare yourself in tonight

kiss me under this alien sky.


Sally Owens Rides Out won second prize in the Open Local category.

The judge’s comments were: “Creative and original imagery conjures sights, sounds (‘you can hear the crunch of a cicada corpse from hoof to ear’) and the character of this pioneer woman. Woman and landscape seem to be inextricably linked. The poem has a well-restrained power, never over-stated.”

Sally Owens Rides Out

Sally Owens was a Rosewood Scrub pioneer of the 1840s-60s.The Marburg Valley was once known as Sally Owens’ Plain. She used the plains to keep her cattle and horses safe from thieves and it was also reputed to be the location of an illicit still that supplied liquor to nearby Ipswich. She was the widow of grazier and former convict Samuel Owens who had the Woolpack Inn at Old Man’s Waterhole (now Laidley). She remarried in the 1860s and died as Sarah Stubbs at Ipswich in 1861. There is no headstone to identify her final resting place at the Ipswich cemetery. 

Riding out, it was the landscape that knew her best
a halcyon-still dome over brigalow country
thick enough to keep secrets in an acacia pocket

pioneer emptiness has a whetstone heart – it sharpens instinct
you can hear the crunch of a cicada corpse from hoof to ear
or understand spinnaker clouds ahead of the next change

and in this timber-locked valley she is impenetrable
a sketch of knife-edged skirts and a livestock caravan
enterprise promising the old country’s powder keg

there’s an intimacy on the plain that once bore her name
and the old scrub still whispers it, the ears and arms
of tulip satinwood and ironbark – an ancient network

Sally Owens rode out one hundred and sixty years ago;
black soil footsteps under a sky that owed nothing
settlement bones, pulled close in an anonymous stronghold


Tallegalla won a highly commended in the Open Local category.

The judge’s comments were: “A series of vivid images, in good, fresh, original language, conjure up the brush turkey”.


Tallegalla is a suburb of Ipswich, Queensland, Australia.
The origin of the suburb name is from the Latin word Talegalla which was the genus name for the Brush-turkey.

She erupts between
the legs of the blue-gum
an ungainly debutante;
yellow wattle cravat
and ash-glossed bustle

leaf litter queen
casting flint strike poses
as day bleeds out
over straw-patched hills

a feather-scruff torso
playing dress-ups
earth floor scavenger;
scratch-flick gobbler

is too pretty a word
for a brush turkey.


Territory won a highly commended in the Open Local category.

The judge’s comments were: “An atmospheric poem. Menace in the natural and social environment that is felt by the woman in the verse is made more powerful to the reader because it is left uncertain.”


The next station is Wulkuraka.

A yellow moon begins where her sundress will end
the anvil beat of an animal heart finds her there

it’s December and dusk brews with a violence
in this bruised and backlit Bremer Valley

where she understands the language of waiting:

that gunmetal swell before the puncture of thunder
as weatherboard hulks scratch out of their skins

the damp suffocation of earth and newsprint 
and his hand, heavy on the back of her neck

The next station is Wulkuraka.

A station wagon idles under a streetlight
and the corner shop blinks back in code

deep in shot, she’s a pastiche of someone else:

milk-white throat and Hollywood lips

a naked bulb burning through kitchen louvre slits
as something boils dry on the stove top

a cassette tape ribbon
flying like a prayer flag from the brigalow


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