Well, it’s taken me a few months to blog about it, but back in September, I wrote a poem. And it won a prize.
Every year, the Australian Chapter of the World Peace Bell Association, headquartered in Cowra (where Australia’s Peace Bell stands), holds a poetry competition. This year’s theme was “A Message of Peace.” This was my entry:
Silence reigns, our arms laid down, and flames now cooled to ashes,No frenzied screams, nor violent words, nor blood to vex the senses.
Borne through desperation to tarry, eye-to-eye,To plot conciliation and bury wounded pride,Two men sit and weigh their words,And watch and wait and ponder—For neither wish to give their ground,Nor relinquish any plunder—Their tongues, concealed, like blunted swords,Their brows are knots of anger,But their armies are exhausted,And their terms now put to paper.
With a flourish, sowed the seeds of battles yet to come,Divided lands and chattels by means which flattered none,For though rhetoric named them enemies, they wilfully conspireTo enact a foul betrayal, to kindle smothered fires—As we watch and wait and wonder at the aftermath of war,Rebuild our lives and learn to live, bereft of cannon’s roar.
Perhaps, then, comes a time for a betrayal of our own:To smash the fears of hollow men; to tear their ruses down;To wound their wiles with whispers; to shamelessly uniteTo thwart their plans for bloodshed; to quench their flames of hate;To raise no hand in anger, nor with heedless words condemnThe innocents of other lands to sate our violent whims;To stand with pride and honour, and pardon past abuse;To boldly cleave together to advance the cause of peace.
Hindsight may acquit the men—their aims may turn out faithful,Their virtue unimpeachable, their tongues be naught but truthful—But how great the cost, should we be wrong, our hope and trust misplaced,Our soldiers marching back to war, our lofty ends disgraced?
No! We are better than the hollow men! The burden falls to usTo bear upon our shoulders our just and solemn trust,For in our darkest hour, our deeds alone affirmThat amity shall rise once more, and peace, undaunted, reign.
For some arcane reason the Australian chapter of the World Peace Bell Association chooses to separate entries from its local area into a separate category (possibly *ahem* due to its close affiliation with the local Council…), which meant I couldn’t qualify for the big, Fairfax-sponsored prize in the Open category. Nonetheless the Poets Union (who judged the competition) had this to say:
Commencing with a well-constructed image of the peace-makers at the negotiating table, the poet lets us know in no uncertain term that, though enemies, these leaders ‘willfully conspire/ to enact a foul betrayal to kindle smothered fires’ of war. He emphasises the possibility of betrayal of the people by the leadership and calls on us all not to blindly hope and trust, because the result will be ‘our soldiers marching back to war’. His final triumphant stanza uses all the power and muscle of rhyme and rhythm for its persuasive strength to bring the poem to its superb conclusion.
And I won first prize in the local category. Better yet, though, were the expressions of the local National Party dignitaries as they squirmed through the obligatory reading…