This week’s award was a little different to many of our recent contests, in that we asked authors to consider an existing work as influence for their own stories.
This piece of work, Blue and Green by Virginia Woolf, is a prose poem only a few hundred words long, it seems almost a perfect fit for NiTH.
But prose poetry is not something we see often on the short list. For our judges and writers, this meant entering unfamiliar territory. parataxis, the placing of short clauses next to each other without coordination, is a technique a lot of authors use to escape the burden of short word limits. In this week’s short list, we saw several examples of this.
Dawn. The long jet sea with a single sail, slowly advancing.
Meanwhile, heightened imagery gives prose poetics the same strong visual palette of a poem, without the lyrical meter:
Translucent droplets speckle and streak against the glass. Up ahead, the white is now diffused into its elementals, into an unstrung bow hanging in the heavens
It was two years ago that the guttural breath of flames filled the treetops.
All three stories were imaginative, for sure. But they also carried with them a sense of time and place that worked as a foundation, grounding the lyrical flights in stories that were simultaneously real, fictional and diverse.
The trees fall away into grey ash and stillness. The leaves are burnt, orange and red, but as the bushland cools a new colour emerges, a bright spring green. Tiny shoots venture out into the sunlight, new life in the opened space. The whisper of ash enfolds the newly born trees.
Thrashing tentacles of fire and soot fills his vision. Not long ago, this was a metropolis in its golden age. Admittedly, so was theirs until his people decided to—
And strange the world can have this clean, white morning air. Vivid, each corner with its straight line, each shadow in such sharp relief and the light, clear and solid.
In each narrative, we saw a willingness to communicate two sides of a story. Not always opposing, but differing perspectives enough to reward the close read.
Though some of our judges expressed difficulty in scoring prose poetry (we are often led to believe that poetry is un-judgeable), our winner this week, edging out the competition by a few points, brought with them rich fireball of visual imagery and characterisation.
Congratulations to Lydia Trethewey!
Lydia’s story, Ash, continued the literary history of prose poetry and the Australian bush, showing the cycle of life, death and rebirth inherent in the destructive forces of bushfire.
Congratulations to Lydia, who moves to the top of our leaderboard with this win. And thanks to Joey and Ash Warren, who are both only a short hop skip and jump from the top of the leaderboard themselves.
Coming up tomorrow, the short list for the ‘Others’ Award will see several authors return to the short list, along with a new face or two. Who will take out first place? Well I guess you’ll just have to wait and see…