Is There Anybody There?

I’m rather thrilled to be asked to judge the Primary category of the 2019 Dorothea Mackellar Poetry Awards. As a teacher, I used these awards to give students a real audience. I know what a big deal these awards are in the classroom! To be on the other side (and expecting to read thousands of students poems) is exciting – and a wee-bit daunting.

But mostly, it’s a huge honour – because of course, Dorothea Mackellar’s ‘My Country‘ has been burnt into my mind since first learning those impassioned words. (My overseas readers, if you haven’t read it, then you must, here.) ‘Waltzing Matilda’ is all well and good – but if we were ever to talk about a new, Australian anthem? Look no further than ‘My Country’!

It inspired my Australia Day golden shovel (above left) during #MoPoetry2019 – using the strike line from the final stanza of ‘My Country’’, Dorothea Mackellar’s iconic poem, above right.

If you’re a classroom teacher and want a poetry form to kickstart kids writing, the golden shovel is a great form to try!


  1. Find a strike line (any length) from an existing poem and attribute it.
  2. Put each word from the strike line at the end of individual lines in your poem… If your strike line has 4 words, your poem has four lines. (The strike line in my poem is written are in bold. )
  3. Now fill in the gaps to make your poem. Lines can be any length.

See also Seeds of Hope for another example of a golden shovel.

Intrigued? You might enjoy learning more about Dorothea, with this YouTube, by Libby Hathorn.

Today’s Poetry Friday is hosted by Irene Latham, creator of the Progressive Poem I took part in earlier in the month. (You can catch up with the poem as it builds at the links below.) Thanks, Irene, for hosting today (during your month of happy poems!) and for sharing the Progressive Poem with the world. 🙂

The Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem – April 2019

2 Kat @ Kathryn Apel
4 Jone @ DeoWriter
5 Linda @ TeacherDance
6 Tara @ Going to Walden
8 Mary Lee @ A Year of Reading
9 Rebecca @ Rebecca Herzog
10 Janet F. @ Live Your Poem
13 Doraine @ Dori Reads
17 Amy @ The Poem Farm
18 Linda @A Word Edgewise
20 Buffy @ Buffy’s Blog
21 Michelle @ Michelle Kogan
22 Catherine @ Reading to the Core
25 Jan @ Bookseestudio
26 Linda @ Write Time
27 Sheila @ Sheila Renfro
29 Irene @ Live Your Poem
30 Donna @ Mainely Write


  1. Dorothea Mackellar’s ‘My Country‘ is truly wonderful, and your golden shovel pairs well with it. There are places I’ve been that your words and your photos evoke memory of — “sun sears,” “withered to scorn,” but especially “poured your lifeblood into this land.”

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Congratulations on being named a judge, Kat! That’s awesome, but it is a lot of work! Thanks for introducing Dorothea Mackellar’s poem to us. I laughed when you mentioned Waltzing Matilda, yes, that’s about it. But one favorite book I’ve read about your country is Bruce Chatwin’s Songlines. Is it one that’s admired there? And I love the golden shovel crafted from Dorothea’s poem. No matter where, our countries do hold our lifeblood. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m going to have to continually remind myself they can’t all be winners because for sure I will be overthinking things, Linda! But what a privilege and joy to read the work of so many budding poets. I’m really looking forward to it! I haven’t heard of Bruce Chatwin, or his work. I’ll have to do some research into that one. Thanks for the heads-up. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. An opal hearted country….what could be more beautiful and descriptive than that? I love it! Someday….someday, I’ll visit. For now, I live from blog post to netflix show to blog post. Many congrats on being called on to judge. What an honor…but also, what a difficult task. Do you need to develop your own criteria? Or, are there some ready for you? I hope we get to see who wins! Great post today…now get to work. You’ve got reading to do!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The poetry form is open – and there’s no set criteria. I’m planning to read and mark poems that appeal/standout for any reason. Then I’ll come back and weigh them all up considering that little magic something, vocabulary, rhythm and rhyme (if applicable), uniqueness, form, sophistication … Basically, everything.😂 (I know who to call if I need a whip-cracker! #gettowork #yesboss) And yes, please do come and visit!


    • Thank-you, Irene. I’m really looking forward to the judging role – and the opportunity to travel down to Dorothea Mackellar country (hoping to see the family homestead!) for the official presentation. So much joy!


  4. Congratulations on the opportunity to judge. How cool that you’ve now been on both sides as a teacher and judge. Your Golden Shovel is beautiful. One day I would love to visit your country! For now, I will have to enjoy the glimpses I get from your photos and poems.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I didn’t know this poem; how wonderful to discover here alongside your lovely Golden Shovel!
    Congrats and enjoy the judging process; I’m always inspired by what young writers come up with, and their work is in thoughtful hands with you. Happy Poetry Month!


  6. Congratulations on being asked to judge! What a wonderful honor! And wow! What a challenge–though one that you’re surely up to meeting. I hope you keep us tuned in on the process. I love your golden shovel poem and the inspiring “My Country” is so stirring and heartfelt. A beautiful pairing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ll keep you all posted, Molly. I’ve had a sneak-peek as early entries have started trickling in and I’m delighted by the promising young writers. So glad you appreciated ‘My Country’ – and my little snippet of country, too.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I also love a harsh, brown part of our country, so I get your passion for Oz. Congrats on being a judge! You bring amazing expertise and passion to the position!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Congratulations on being selected to judge! I know you will be wonderful! I didn’t know “From My Country,” but it’s really gorgeous. I love the line you picked- I think kids would love using that line to write a golden shovel about a favorite place.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. “Is There Anybody There” is an inviting, intriguing theme. I wonder if you will see a bunch of similar poems because students went the same way with it? When I did Reflections arts competition coordinating, we would sometimes see common responses to a theme — there was one year when everyone did images of people holding hands. I remember one year people used a lot of candy…can’t remember why!
    Looking forward to seeing the winners!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I love your shovel, Kat. I’ve only written a couple, but it’s such a wonderful form. You’ve inspired me to write another! “My country” is is truly wonderful. It actually gave me goosebumps. What I adore about it is how celebratory it is of your natural landscape rather than a rah-rah patriotic flag flying anthem, which we tend to lean towards in the U.S. Thank you so much for sharing it with all of us. Cheers! — Christie @

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! Goosebumps. It is just that sort of poem. It is full of passion and so earthy and relatable. I think that celebration of nature is what makes it so well loved. It doesn’t just remind me of my own landscape, but also very different vistas I have seen in my travels, that have stolen a piece of my heart. It’s a national treasure! I’m glad you enjoyed the golden shovel, too. There is just something about that form that stirs the heart, I find.


  11. Pingback: Gunnedah to Gayndah « Kathryn Apel

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