Kat’s Bush Poetry – On the Wallaby

Continuing my posts of bush poetry from my pre-kids poetry days, today I’m sharing one inspired by our first caravan holiday. For sure, this was an express a stress poem, turning disaster into laughter; the time that hubby took us ‘On the Wallaby’.

On The Wallaby

It’s half the distance on the map – and I can drive on dirt.
We’ll save some time and fuel as well… What’s it gonna hurt?


The road was like an old tin shed; all corrugated rust,
that rattled teeth and eyeballs as it billowed clouds of dust.
A caravan we had in tow, pulled by a Commodore;
a brand-new, fam’ly kind of car – no bloomin’ four-by-four!
The stop ’n’ go bloke thought the rough stuff wouldn’t be for long.
He said the track got better but I tell you – he was wrong!

That road was stretched before us like an unrelenting curse.
Two hundred k’s of gravel, never better – sometimes worse.
We rode those corrugations ’til our vision blurred and spun,
with one eye on the pitfalls and the other on the sun.
Three hours we were bounced about, the popcorn in the pan…
But got the biggest shake-up when we peered inside our van.

No bomb could cause more chaos, nor an earthquake devastate.
Such carnage in the caravan – I don’t exaggerate!
The brakes had disconnected, while a curtain was defaced,
the oven door had come adrift, and hotplates were displaced.
The cupboards had swung open with the contents all flung out;
utensils, food and crockery were jumbled all about.

Like flotsam cast upon the beach, our clothes were strewn around.
The wardrobe door that ripped right off was buried in the mound.
Red dust had coated ev’rything! It blew in through a vent,
where wall and floor had parted to reveal a two-inch rent.
And seeping through the rubble that had cluttered up the floor,
were streams of milk that flowed from the refrigerator door.

Beside that far-flung roadway we attempted a repair,
suppressing thoughts of panic and a longing for despair.
We closed then locked our caravan – with no time to delay.
Our journey wasn’t over – we were only just halfway!
We’d joggled for three hours down that rippling, rutted track,
but had to press on forward, cause I wasn’t going back!


The road was stretched before us like an unrelenting curse.
One hundred k’s of gravel and believe me – it got worse!

© Kathryn Apel 2003 – All rights reserved.

This poem courtesy of the Kennedy Development Highway, from Charter’s Towers to Hughenden. To this day, I regret that I didn’t take a photo of our van – either at this point, or at the end of the journey, when the dust and carnage was worse. But here is a pic of both, taken on a later caravanning holiday. (Reason #101 as to why you marry a grazier/handyman. He’s real good at fixing stuff up! (Even if he ‘can’ drive on dirt!))

A caravan we had in tow, pulled by a Commodore; a brand-new, fam’ly kind of car – no bloomin’ 4×4.

On the wallaby is an Aussie slang (that has almost slipped into oblivion) meaning, on the road; taking to the road for an extended time.

Loved our little abode!

Now it’s time to hit the road – on the trail of poetry. Karen is hosting the link-up at Karen Edmisten*. Thanks, Karen!

Kat’s Bush Poetry – Flaming Fish & Chips

Before I wrote poetry for kids I wrote bush poetry – usually to express a stress about a somewhat climactic event in our lives; turning disaster into laughter. I haven’t written any bush poetry for years – but I’ve often thought I should go through my files and share some on my blog. A twitter conversation with Allayne Webster last night jogged my memory – so here is the first. Reason #1001 as to why I’ll never be a cook.


Flaming Fish and Chips

Our takeaway for easy tea – a not-too-common treat –
was snugly wrapped in butcher’s paper, near a gentle heat.
I walked into the kitchen as I sniffed and licked my lips …
What the blazes! In the oven … Flaming fish and chips!

The paper pack was well alight as orange tongues leapt higher,
the likely fate of our hot tea – consumed by raging fire.
“No! Not my fish and chips,” I cried. It went beyond a joke
to stand and watch our dinner just go wafting up in smoke.

I didn’t stop to reason then, just wrenched the warming drawer.
It skidded off its runners, landing on my clean tiled floor!
I thought I’d douse or smother it, in tea-towels wet with drips,
but couldn’t bear the thought of eating soggy fish and chips.

So then I tried to rip the burning paper off our tea,
which tore in two, as flames leapt up, and tried consuming me!
Of course, I dropped the flaming sheet, which fluttered to the floor,
and smouldered down to ash and stains – but troubled me no more.

And still inside the warming drawer, our tea was in the pyre,
eluding further efforts to extract it from the fire.
The metal shelf was hot to touch, and mitts inclined to flare …
burnt offerings, I wryly thought, were likely dinner fare.

But then the blazing monster slowly slumped and petered out,
relinquishing our takeaway, charred paper strewn about.
My kitchen was a sooty mess – quite like a fireplace –
with warming drawer and tiled floor both blackened to disgrace …

Four smoked fish portions, served with chips and sprinkled liberally
with flecks of soot as seasoning, were salvaged for our tea.
But while we had our takeaway to nourish us that night,
we found the food just turned to ash each time we took a bite …

My husband has a laugh with mates and tells them it’s real crook,
when wifey burns the dinner that she didn’t even cook.
I won’t repeat the comments this has sparked about my hair …
but ‘dumb blonde’ jokes are guaranteed to make my temper flare!

© Kathryn Apel 2005 – All rights reserved.

Never put your takeaway fish and chips snuggly wrapped in butcher’s paper in your warming drawer. Just don’t. No paper. At all. The end.

That red fire blanket we had hanging on the kitchen wall, after an earlier smoking Christmas cooking experience? This would have been a good time to remember it.

And one final note… Please don’t judge my hubby on my poetry. Poetic license may be employed – though not without some justification.🙃

Happy Poetry Friday. You’ll find the full round-up at Library Matters, where Cheriee is sharing a fascinating interview with a poet I have not heard of. I’m going back to read more! (I saw her mind-boggling acrostic!)

Like Moths to the Bogong Plains – A Poem

I have to start this post by saying that on Wednesday we had 70mm of rain – or 2 and 3/4 inches – and at long last, the dams have started to rise. More rain is definitely needed – but praise the Lord, it is so good to see water levels rising!

Turtley awesome weather!

As a part of my contribution to the recent #AuthorsForFireys auction, I offered a new-for-you poem about an Australian animal. The winning bid was for a poem about a Bogong moth. There were in fact two bids for a Bogong moth poem – which sparked my curiosity. I mean, we’ve* all heard of a Bogong moth – but what exactly is it, and what makes it special? I thought it might be one of those gianormous (takes up the palm of your hand) moths that I have seen on rare (two) occasions – but no! It’s the common, average-sized brown moth that we see fairly frequently. So – what is special about the Bogong moth, that two people would be requesting poems about it?

I started digging around… and tinkering with poems. I didn’t write one poem, but three; a nonet, a free verse and a mini-mouthful – that may require a dictionary to decode! I had to write three, because the free verse alone felt unfinished. And I’d started playing with a nonet – which I really liked. And actually, those near-rhyming mouthfuls of words were just too perfect to ignore! And the Bogong moth is deserving of three poems!

Since the auction item offered a signed version of the poem, and I had no appropriate pictures to hand to pretty-up the page, I drew a Bogong moth… and actually, if I’m honest, I’m quietly chuffed with it… (Since I’m definitely not an artist!)

This new-for-you creation is for Ivy and Aida, from Brian. (I sent a signed version off to them last week. Though I just made some tweaks – including to the page orientation. Why am I always changing things??!?)

So – what makes a Bogong moth special? Read on…

© Kathryn Apel – All rights reserved.

An amazing pic of tiles of Lepidoptera is here.

Moths tend to pale into insignificance beside brighter butterflies – but this little achromatic aviator is amazing. I’m glad I got to research and write about it! Thanks Bren and Brian, for the inspiration!

The lovely Laura Salas is hosting the Poetry Friday round-up at Writing the World for Kids. Be sure to check out her blog – and then follow the links for today’s poetry goodness.

*In Australia, at least.

Poetry Friday Round-up, 24th January 2020

Welcome to Australia (twice in the one month!) for another round-up of Poetry Friday. Since Sally hosted, a lot of Australia has received rain, so dust has settled, and many fires have also been checked back. But what a horrifying month it has been! And it is not over. Even as I write this post (Thursday), the news comes through of the large air tanker crash, killing 3 US crew members. And we are once again reminded of the many different ways people risk their lives in our service. And how precious – and fragile – life is.

Our Queensland property is far from the fires, but we have been contending with drought, and have empty dams all around us. Two inches of rain in the past 2 weeks has brought a wash of green creeping over the paddocks, for which we are so thankful – but we are praying for much more rain to fill those dams!

I am proud of the Australian kidlit community – who, led by Nova Weetman and Emily Gale, and joined by much of the world – raised more than $500,000 in the twitter-based #AuthorForFireys auction. One of my offerings was a new-to-you poem about an Australian animal. (Thank-you to my beautiful PoetryFriday friends who jumped in to bid for that.) The winning bid was for a poem about a bogong moth, for $200. I’m still working on that one! (Fascinated, from what I’ve learnt thus far.)

When I signed up to host today, I had thought I’d have a Month of Poetry to share with you, to make your visit to my blog interesting – but I started the year in a sad place, following the loss of my beloved Amber – and just didn’t want the commitment of a joyful play with words. It has been a productive month none-the-less, with time spent polishing and submitting picture book manuscripts and writing new poems for a project I’m hoping to be involved with. One of the poems was about a selection of Queensland animals, and on a night-time wander this week, I snapped this pic of mama and bubba possum, high in an ironbark tree along our track – so I thought I’d include my stanza about the possum for my poetry offering today.

© Kathryn Apel – All rights reserved.

What have you been working on? Who has news to share? I look forward to catching up on your happenings through the round-up, and comments below. Hoping your weekend is wonderful! Last weekend before the new school year starts in Queensland! (I’m sure families will be cramming every last moment with holiday-feels!) I’m reminded of this trimeric I wrote in January during Month of Poetry 2014, when I had kids on school holidays…

Clockwork Holidays

The clock has stopped. The bus has run.
School bags lie in wait, lunchboxes packed,
while uniforms hang about in dishevelment
and kids run free!

School bags lie in wait, lunchboxes packed
and stacked
away at the back of the cupboard.

While uniforms hang about in dishevelment,
waiting to be pressed into shape,
rumpled, crumpled comfy clothes are donned,

and kids run free!
No HW. No bedtimes. No alarms.
Unwinding as the clock… ticks… down… to… school.

© Kathryn Apel – All rights reserved.

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https://fresh.inlinkz.com/js/widget/load.js?id=c8cd94ed6d171cb9d89dSneaking in for an unexpected bonus extra … This little video was released this week, by Newport News Public Schools, following my visit to Riverside Elementary, in November. Oh the wonderful memories! (Why does it seem so long ago?)

My Amber

My Amber

Imprinting your shape,
and texture
into the palm of my heart;
knobby horns,
forehead whirl,
and floppy dewlap.

Hands smooth across
sleek red hide,
eyes clouded by tears.

I inhale.

Hold time.

Breathe in the scent of you.

Each pat

   a memory,
   a caress,
   a pause;

‘I love you.’

‘My beautiful girl.’

'I love you.'

© Kathryn Apel December 2019

She was older than my boys – and lived in our home paddock almost as long as I have. She was my second bottle-reared calf (arriving two months after Cocoa), and for 23 years she has been just a roving glance away – a frequent visitor at the house for sweetest treats. She was our gentle giant; for many years, the fattest cow on the property, and the one cow I have never feared. Loved by many, she would happily exchange hay for pats – from family, friends and strangers.

And now, we’re shedding tears. And clinging to the memories … and a thousand photos of our beautiful Amber.

10 years of reading with Amber. Always her favourite book.

Teary hugs to my grazier husband who has shared the care of our Amber-girl, most especially in recent drought months during my extended author visits – where kids the world over have loved to hear about Amber the cow.

My beautiful Amber-girl. xx

Edit: Thank-you to my online friend Rachel, who I first met when she ordered a signed copy of ‘This is the Mud!’ because it was her daughter’s favourite book, and she’d worn it out! Rachel sent me this verse in response to my Instagram post – and I can tell she has read ‘This is the Mud’ many times. (Including tonight, in honour of Amber – when her girls wanted to know why she was crying, since it’s not a sad story! “See… she’s chewing her cud so that means she’s happy.”)

This is the author who smiles through her tears,
at the wonderful memories from 23 years,
of a happy old “Moo”, chewing her cud,
knowing how much she was ever so loved. ❤️

I cried buckets – and smiled some, too. Rachel, your poem will always be special! Thank-you! xx

Poetry Friday Friends – IRL

My American adventure was funtabulous! Last week I showed some of the awesomeness of my ‘Bully on the Bus’ school tour. This week, I show you my Poetry Friday friends. I was sooooo looking forward to seeing everyone …Note: Memories couldn’t possibly be rosier than rosy reality.

Sunday: Portsmouth with Molly within hours of landing. Combating jetlag with a friend and a camera! The only thing better would have been more time.

After two weeks of school-visits (talking myself hoarse, then succumbing to sinusitis) I caught up with more Poetry Friday friends. I felt like I was the care package, nurtured and passed from one friend to another.💕

Saturday/Sunday: Walking the Manassas Battlefields and the Memorial Mall (DC) with Linda.

Monday: Slipped in one more author talk, this time at Stonewall Middle School – because author talks are always fun! And so is visiting a friend’s library! (I was intrigued by some of their takeaways.)

Monday: Linda briefly met Tabatha for the first time, before Tabatha and I took off for another day in the Capital (Library of Congress pictured) then home to Tabatha’s for more TLC.

Tuesday: Lunch and a meander through Ellicott City with Tabatha, Irene and Laura. There may have been shopping… Home to Laura’s with Irene.

Tuesday Night: Reading Night at Hammond Elementary School, presenting a session on shape poetry with Laura and Irene. Such a busy, buzzing evening! #glassesaremyfaveaccessory🤷‍♀️

Wednesday: Laura organised a behind-the-scenes tour of the newly renovated Enoch Pratt Library… and even the architects were on-hand. (We might have been models for a moment.😂)


Thursday: NCTE 2019 – Dinner with some of the Poetry Friday crew – and it wasn’t even Friday!

Friday: More food and poets. (Hi to Liz our host today, hidden up the back.)

Recognising faces in the conference crowd… no introductions necessary!

More NCTE faces and fun!

A powerhouse bookstore – literally!

Thank-you! For all that you all did. It was pure joy to meet you and talk face-to-face. Poetry Friday has long been my go-to recommendation for teachers (and poets), wherever they are in the world, because of YOU! You are an awesome support crew and inspiration.

Elizabeth Steinglass is hosting our Poetry Friday link-up this week, but before you rush across, let me share a sneak peek into ‘Soccerverse – Poems about Soccer’ by Liz – with illustrations by Edson Ikê. They’re all disciplined, playful poems – but ‘Instructions: to Field Players / The Goalkeeper’ are kicking g⚽️als with words!

Liz Steinglass and illustrator Edson Ikê score with this reverso.


American School Visits

November passed by in a blur for me, with three weeks in the USofA cram-packed with school visits and catch-ups with friends. I have a ToDo list the size of Mt Everest that I am still chipping away at, but I am determined to post for Poetry Friday – so here I am with pictures! And some words…but there are not enough words to express how wonderful those three weeks were!

This week, I bring you two weeks of school visits! One week of visits with UBAM Consultant Beth Paiva – including schools in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, followed by a week of visits in Virgina with Emily Griffin. I spoke with kids from Pre-Kinder to Yr 6, sharing a peek into life on our family cattle property, the inspiration for ‘Bully on the Bus’ and chatting about the verse novel format – and the fun of poetry! I absolutely LOVED each and every visit – and seeing how schools were using ‘Bully on the Bus’. In some cases a whole school read! If ever I doubt myself, I will bring myself back to these photos, because they bring me joy, joy, joy.

I never did get over my fascination for yellow school buses – in so many different shapes and sizes! In different weather, too; sun, rain and snow!

Week One:


Week Two:


I even managed to squeeze in a luncheon for community members… where I was thrilled to see ‘On Track’ – in large print. New to me, though I have to admit, I do much prefer the play with formatting and alignment in the standard version.

Dinner out with some of the UBAM sales team. And a rocking horse pig… because I may or may not have grown up on a pig farm…

Thank-you to all the amazing counsellors, librarians, educators, janitors and kids who made my school visits so amazing! The smiles are because of YOU!

There are many more pics to come – including lots with my wonderful Poetry Friday friends, but I’m saving them for another post – because there are already a heap of pics in this post. I have always loved Poetry Friday – but I love it so much more, now that I have met so many of you! Tanita is hosting the Poetry Friday round-up this week. I look forward to seeing what you’ve all been up to! xx

Poetry Swap – and Continent Swap

Gorgeous envelope! And stickers to live by.

Life is a whirlwind, and I’m caught in it! But how wonderful to have mail from Iphigene arrive today – giving me the perfect excuse to join in the Poetry Friday party!

Winter in Melbourne inspired Iphigene’s poem.

Living Winter
by Iphigene Daradar

If we breathe in this cold air
Would we not wake up?
Shiver and come to surface
Hold ourselves close
Until the warmth in our bellies
Heat our limbs
Blood coursing through
Our veins telling us
We are alive

This living, unfamiliar
A first Australian winter
Of rain and wind,
Wind and rain,
Pounding through
my coat, my doc
Martens and useless
Layers my tropical
Ignorance believed
Warm enough

And yet, I walk through
Hours of gardens
And sanctuaries
Filling my lungs
With mother nature
Expanding my chest
The chill biting
Through fingers
Wind reminding me
I AM alive,

Why I AM alive.
Encountering different,
Fish out of water
Thriving in the cold
Knowing, this is living
A contrast of warm
Skin against icy winds
Reminding, life
Is worth
All of it.

© Iphigene Daradar 2019

Such a lovely refreshing breath of poetry! Thank-you Iphigene. The second verse is particularly striking a chord for me as I’m packing for Autumn in America. My lovely, helpful friends are saying ‘pack layers  it won’t be that cold’  but then tell me temperatures to rival winter in Qld! I’m packing LOTS of layers!!! 🙂

Karen Edmisten* has the Poetry Friday link-up for today. I’m looking forward to skipping through and catching up with you all online  and I can’t wait until I link-up with lots of PoetryFriday friends in real life over coming weeks! Excited? Much!

Gunnedah to Gayndah

This is a quick post to share some pics from my trip to Gunnedah last week, for the Dorothea Mackellar Poetry Awards Presentation Ceremony. I know many of my Poetry Friday friends are keen to see the winning poems – and if you click across to Dorothea Mackellar Poetry Award Winners (my previous post), not only will you see the poems, but you’ll meet the amazing poets, too! For today – pics of Gunnedah! Thank-you to Laura from Writing the World for Kids for hosting our Poetry Friday round-up this week.

I arrived Wednesday evening, to run poetry workshops on Thursday for children from Gunnedah and surrounds. (There are so many sites and towns with delightful names, including the nearby Boggabri.) Thursday afternoon, award winners and the secondary judge (Meredith Costain) arrived – though there were some hiccups with delayed flights, lost luggage and a broken-down bus… But we still managed to squeeze in a whistle-stop tour of Gunnedah, which is a town that has so much to offer tourists! Two lovely lookouts – with amazing vistas. (Pensioners Hill also includes stone carvings which are impressive.) I tried twice for a pic with Dorothea on her horse, opposite the Mackellar Centre but alas, Thursday evening I was too rushed, and Friday morning, the wind was gusting… (I look a fright!) I’ll have to go back again to try a third time for a better pic. (Sentiment runs strong on this!) But you can spot Dorothea on horseback in the collage below.

I’d printed a small canvas of my golden shovel inspired by Dorothea Mackellar’s iconic ‘My Country’ as a thank-you gift for the committee. I was touched by how much they loved it – and a little blown away to hear that it will find a place on the wall in the Mackellar Centre. It resonated with committee members who are also feeling the grit of dust, as they pour their lifeblood into this vast sunburnt land – and love her.

Less than 24 hours after announcing the award winners at Gunnedah, NSW, (and three chock-full, sometimes turbulent flights later) I was presenting a writing workshop for artists at Gayndah, Qld, where I was delighted to meet a young lass who rates ‘Bully on the Bus’ as her favourite book – has read it double-digits times and perhaps knows it better than me! She now has ‘On Track’ and ‘Too Many Friends’ to complete her collection…

After the dust of Gunnedah and Gayndah, I arrived home to more dust – and smoke. Numerous dams dried up in my absence, and grass is tinder-dry. We are all yearning for the drumming of the army, that Dorothea writes of;

Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When sick at heart, around us,
We see the cattle die –

But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady, soaking rain.

From My Country, by Dorothea Mackellar

Dorothea Mackellar Poetry Award Winners

Last Friday I was in Gunnedah for the prestigious Dorothea Mackellar Poetry Awards Presentation Ceremony. It was an honour to be asked to judge the Primary category – and a joy to meet and mix with committee and community members, award winners, and their families. I am so proud of these amazing kids, and I’m thrilled to be able to share the winning poems and poets with you. (Shared with permission.)

Lower Primary Winner:  Lincoln Cecil -“The Beat

The Beat

Harsh rays on wrinkled skin.
Lungs suffocated, breathe out.
Callused hands scarred deeply.
Vision forced through cracks.
Hope strangled and choked.
Life turns lifeless.

The heart beat stops.
Joyful rhythms pour down.
Drops dancing on rusted hope.
Falling from prayers passed down.
Veins of water stretch out flowing.
Ancient arteries filling,
Bringing family trees to life.
The heart beats again.

Judge’s Comment: So many phrases take my breath away. The imagery, vocabulary and maturity in this evocative poem is astounding – especially in such a young poet! A poem written from the heart of experience.

Lower Primary Runner-Up:  Eric Qiu -“Dark


I’m not scared
Of many things:
But I don’t like
The dark.

It’s always there,
Inside boxes, waiting
To get out,
Waiting patiently
For the day to go
So it can seep down
From the sky;
It’s there,
Under my bed, waiting
For me to turn out
The light
So it can jump out
And frighten me…

It even follows
Me around.

My shape

A sound.

Judge Comment: A deceptively simple poem with a clever twist to end. Well crafted!

Upper Primary Winner: Sanu Kariyawasam -“The Earth is in Good Hands

The Earth is in Good Hands

Earth is in good hands…
It’s not
it’s too late now.
Don’t tell me
We can still save our earth
We can take a step forward
That we can still stop
You know
It’s too late.
They say
We’re getting there.
You know
It’s a lie.
We’ve gone too far.
We can’t stop now.
Every day you hear how
Animals are killed.
Wildlife is burned.
We need to take-action,
We can’t just hope.
That’s what they say…

Earth is dead. It’s the end.

(now read from bottom to top)

Judge’s Comment: I am in awe of this young poet, who has crafted a reverso that reads fluently both ways. The form is perfect for this topic – first portraying a bleak reality, then rereading it with shades of hope. Having attempted a number of reversos, and completed three, I fully appreciate and admire the skill that went into crafting this masterpiece.

Upper Primary Runner-Up: Henry Maning -“I think my teacher is Cinderella

“I think my teacher is Cinderella”

It’s not just
that she drives to school in a carriage,
or that she wears a tiara.

It’s not just
the way she mops the floor
and lets us treat her like a slave.

It’s not just
the way she talks to mice
or when she chats to the prince she blushes.

What gives her away
at the end of the day
is how she leaves
her glass slipper at the gate.

Judge’s Comment: Perfect use of repetition and rule of three. Every word working to earn its place. The rhyme to build to climax. And humour! Simplicity at its finest.

Assisted Learning Primary Winner: Felix Liu – “Untouchable


The apricot on the table was my heart’s desire,
But there was no right way this extravagant fruit
Could ever enter my covetous mouth.
I tried, I dared.
I resisted, I stared.
Like a diamond just out of reach.
As rare as gold.
However, I couldn’t give in.
Until finally …
Temptation overcame me.
I felt as black as the devil,
Yet as rich as a king,
It was as sweet as honey,
As soft as marshmallows,
As astonishing as the universe.
This amazing fruit,
Had corrupted my mind,
And made me forget,
That it wasn’t mine.

Judge’s Comment: This poem is delicious! It weaves similes, rhyme, alliteration and rich vocabulary into a tightly controlled poem, with the inevitable ending looping neatly back to the start.

Assisted Learning Primary Runner-Up:
Jasmine Safrglani – “Artistry


When the rain falls from the sky
A rainbow appears.

The sun grabs the rainbow
And uses it
As its pallet.

Judge’s Comment: There is beauty and poetry in the simplest, quietest moments. This poem makes me look at rainbows in a different light.

David Maher Award for Small Schools Winner: Lachlan Spence -“Forgotten Tree
Awarded to the best individual entry from a small school (less than 25 enrolled students)

Forgotten Tree

I hear a loud noise to my side,
I fly towards it, using sound as a guide,
The land is barren and no good for crops,
Then all of a sudden the noise stops,
I land on a branch so I can see,
Alone in my forgotten tree.

A rusty ute was making the sound
A man steps out, onto dry ground,
His ute must have run out of fuel,
I notice his finger bares a jewel,
It glitters in the sun so I see,
Alone in my forgotten tree.

If I could swoop right down with speed,
I’d grab that jewel a prize indeed,
I need to think of a masterplan,
To steal it from this lonely man,
It would be easy I can see,
Alone in my forgotten tree.

I see his face and it looks sad,
if I steal that jewel, I will feel bad,
I realise that this man is alone,
And a long way from his home,
His life is the same as mine I see,
Alone in my forgotten tree.

For days on end I watch this man,
I see him suffer, his face is bland,
The process is so very slow,
Oh how I wish he would just go,
In the night he dies, I see,
Alone in my forgotten tree.

I watch the Goanna’s feed on him,
The foxes too, when the light is dim,
His memory is haunting me,
Alone in my forgotten tree,
There I see his bones sink in,
I choose to leave the ring with him,

Alone in my forgotten tree.

Judge’s Comment: A complex poem from a bird’s eye view, exploring the use of symbolism, rhyme and repetition.

Chatting to Lachlan over breakfast, I was so pleased to hear that his poem was written outdoors – when the class was taken out to the long paddock to sit and be inspired by nature as they wrote. This is such a valuable exercise, and I am so glad there are schools who still see worth in it! And look at the poetry it produced! I know my first national competition win came with poems I’d drafted on a Yr 10 school writing excursion; scratching away in my notebook whilst poised on a rock in the middle of a trickling stream, as others perched in tree branches, or sprawled on the grass. If we value writing and creativity, we will value excursions that release their creativity! I spent considerable time tramping paddocks with my nose in my phone screen (thankfully not snake season!) and propped up under a tree, judging the Dorothea Mackellar Poetry Awards. As an author, I head for the hills if I’ve got a mental block or need to ponder plot problems. Fresh air and country vistas release word snarls.


Award winners at the ceremony – with Dorothea Mackellar Memorial Society President, Juliana McArthur, Kate Neasey (Cottage School, Tasmania – winner of the Primary Schools’ Award) Primary judge Kathryn Apel, Secondary judge Meredith Costain and guest speaker Gabrielle Chan. (Photo credit: nvi.com.au)


Don’t forget to read the Secondary Award Winners poems from 2019. Janiru Liyanage brought tears to my eyes with his stirring presentation of his winning poem, whilst Amelia Neylon blew me away with her slam poetry performance. Don’t miss the full list of Secondary poems, as judged by Meredith Costain. Wonderful works!

The Dorothea Mackellar Society is already in planning for next year’s competition. Start writing now – and watch this space for more information.