Caselberg Trust International Poetry Competition for 2013

Judge’s Report

Two questions worth asking of a poem: From whence does its order come (or, alternatively, from whom does it take its orders?) And, from whence cometh the chaos. A lyric poem needs both. Usually Life provides not only the originating impulse for a poem but also the intrinsic chaos – unexpected persons burst in, bits fall off the ceiling. Whereas order, or a semblance of it, comes by way of form, measure, the tradition (as it is handed down and processed by every poet, to a lesser or greater extent)….. READ FULL JUDGES REPORT HERE

The winning entry was ‘Everything is possible’, by Tim Upperton, and the runner-up was ‘Ten Things I Want To Tell You About My Ducks’, by Laurice Gilbert.

The five highly commended entries were ‘Reading Moby Dick the week of Peter Bethune’s trial’, by Janet Newman; ‘Karl’s Double Yo-Yo’, by Caroline Lark; ‘Cloud analysis’, by Sandi Sartorelli; ‘If Wellington Harbour is a laundry’, by Nicola Easthope; and ‘Cranium’, by Natasha Dennerstein.

Winning Entry


Everything is possible

I was watching this film by Quentin Tarantino.
It starred Robert De Niro and Al Pacino.
Maybe it was by Martin Scorsese.
Anyway, it was that predictable kind of crazy.

The women were beautiful, but didn’t have much to do.
Mostly they got emotional with Robert or Al.
They weren’t treated particularly well.
They took their clothes off, as women often do.

It was Michael Mann! Mann’s the man you want if you want manly.
Al and Robert are manly, though not so very tall.
Al’s hardly there at all.
At the end, everyone was shooting insanely.

Women took off their clothes more than they put them on.
It’s the movies, where this is possible.
I’m thinking of buying a convertible.
I’ll cruise fashionable streets with the top down.

Beside me is a beautiful woman in a blue dress.
Her beautiful head nods yes, yes.
Everything is possible. We are so alive.
It goes on and on as long as we drive.



Ten Things I Want To Tell You About My Ducks

1. They are Khaki Campbells, but they are not khaki. They are assorted ratios of brown and white, though they have khaki beaks and feet.

2. They are all girls, including the transgender one who looks and sounds like a drake. They need a guard while they eat, and she drew the short straw.

3. Their eggs are exactly like chook eggs, only bigger. Get over it. The eggs are especially good for baking because of their greater loft.

4. They hide their eggs under leaf litter or on straw that I leave out in the hedge or beneath flax bushes or behind the incinerator…

5. …except for Lucy, who lays hers wherever she happens to be at the time the need overcomes her. Lucy has orange feet.

6. Sometimes they lay their eggs in the sunken bath in the lawn that is their pond, for us to find when we change the water. These are inedible.

7. I suspect the pond eggs are Lucy’s.

8. They do not eat bread but Hi-Lay Chicken Pellets, whole dried corn and wheat. They love lettuce. Lettuces are very expensive in winter.

9. The checkout operator at Pak’n Save asks me if we will eat them when they stop laying eggs.

10. No.

Highly Commended


Reading Moby Dick the week of Peter Bethune’s trial

Herman Melville has me rowing the long boat,
rope-end of the iron-honed, muscle-thrown harpoon.

On board Pequod, the enormous head is suspended
by a block and tackle. Through a hole

dug with a spade, those brave
and ignorant men

dip an iron bucket “precisely like a well bucket”
again and again,

haul brimming, opaque, emollient jelly.
It slops the deck. They slide about like pucks.

All the dumb night,
the lamps burn.

Whales. I have seen the poise of their tails,
the dark arch of their backs from a boat off the Kaikoura coast.

You Tube camcorder: the calf nudges the kayak with its outlandish snout.
Baby, we love you, sweet baby. A hand reaches out.

Google search: Anatomy of a Sperm Whale. Professor Malcolm Clarke
beside a life-size diagram of a teenager the length of this room:

There’s an oil network (those old whalers thought it was spermaceti)
delaying sound reception for sonar perception,

water-cooled, blood-warmed oil solidifies and liquifies,
allows the whale to rise and dive

with the grace of a locomotive-size dancer.
It’s nature’s brilliance.

Every night on the news, flukes first, while bellies up,
up the slips of smart whaling ships

and madman Bethune, a crossbow in one hand,
roaming the seas on their tails.


Karl’s Double Yo-Yo

He takes yours with his cool Karl hand
leads you to the floor and you say
How’s your week been?
Quiet Karl replies no more no less
three cool guys and a girl in a blues band
strike up and you picture tall Karl’s
seven days’ and seven nights’ quietness
but then in double spirals his Karlness
spins you inside his steps’ finesse
The Eskimo (turns x 3) and you’re away
secure in Karl’s exact knowledge of ceroc
like a London cabbie he’s studied the book
A to Z been all around the block
in his wide-brimmed tan leather hat
you – obedient beginner – dance back
to his choreography Karl-style
stately groove-moves without dancing
how does he do that?
Nice perfume Karl says and you reply

Thanks fitting your up-stretched arm into his Ginger
without a hitch then with Karl courtesy
he leads a Latin Sit followed by
an Accordion while you do your bit
he’s strolling right on the eight-bar beat
Karl’s panache is something to see
the wondrous unfunkyness of Karlness
nobody knows what Karl does
beyond the ceroc scene
cybernetics a big shot in I.T. maybe
dressed all in pressed black he’s clean
combed calm a neurologist aristocracy or a priest
you flick out as you should to the Hey Baby
then hand on hip dip to Karl’s Double Yo-Yo
get right into it let yourself go-go
and now he’s smiling that rare beam
sparkling endorphins surf his bloodstream
to let you know as if you hadn’t already guessed
this is Karl’s bliss.


Cloud Analysis

I lost Him in a twinkle of my eye,
(no last trump, no earthquake) as if
a cloud had vanished. No grave

to say goodbye, no body
to share communion and my faith
would not resuscitate:

knew for sure when my exegeses
wouldn’t spin.
Winding in vertigo as if

the ground had been removed
and I was

Seemed reasonable to do the unpardonable
sin. And give myself –
a decade of enabled psychiatrists

numbed eternity of
numbed eternity
eternity of

numbered days.
I returned, and turned to early gods,
who reminded me to feel again,

feel again.
At heart I’ll always be a Brethren girl singing
‘O for a Thousand Tongues’ over the dishes

but I will have no resurrection,
no second go. It was my miracle
when I saw

the shine
between the clouds,
o happy day!


If Wellington Harbour is a laundry,

(after Denis Glover)
then today, the waterfront is a spin cycle of youth on wheels:
kicktail Pennyboards with Spitfires and Madd Krunk bearings,
She Devil trick scooters, inline Moody Boys, and me –
just shy of forty four, on tinny black boot skates –
a thirty dollar Trade Me win. Puffer and denim dervishes push
forward, weaving through blue-rinse and buggies, caffeine-flush
apartment dwellers, polyglot travellers high on the Tararua view.
My quadriceps burn up to speed with the instants of adolescence
I want to keep. I roll the length of Oriental Bay, stop tall and breathless
at Freyberg for a fresh Nourish juice. Terence Trent D’Arby
spirits up the past, and I zoom on to the elbow at Waitangi Park,
past the boats hip-still at the jetty, and kiss the bronze man
arched by an earlier wind. Here, the bitumen is open
and even and there is nostalgia in every face that turns
at the vim of my scouring wheels. A woman about my age asks;
this evening, she will update her favourites. NZ426 to Auckland
sneezes out of a white Roseneath mansion that clutches the shoulders
of Matairangi, and the great tissue of sky catches the plane. Seagulls yodel
from mast tops. The market at Frank Kitts rockets with books, belts, alpaca.
Let’s all roll together on this iron-flat water.



Skull is to brain as pot is to stew.
My skull: the superstructure upon which
the parchment of my face is stretched.
It supports the landscape which tells
the journey that got me here.
Inside my skull – that bony artefact –
is the brain gifted to me by
my mother’s, fathers’ mothers.

It encapsulates the ancient pathways
and neural channels of generations of begats.
It goes back to Poland and back to Minsk
and back to the Palestinian brain,
where that cast-off wife of Judah,
spurned by the side of the road,
feels biblical self-pity and cries
bitter biblical tears. The pomegranate
juice taste of those tears is passed to me.
There she dances in her skirt of shekels
in praise of the god who made the flowers.

Oh skull, oh coconut carved,
you’ve served me well.
You’ve given me a Slavic prominence
of cheeky cheekbones
and a jaw that’s articulated.
It moves up and down.
Zygoma, mandible, orbit:
tiny, workable bones, but tough.

Please Note that the copyright for each of these poems remains with the Author.

Chloe Geoghegan