Monday musings on Australian literature: Red Room Poetry Object Competition 2014

Just a quick Monday Musings today but an interesting one I hope.

Red Room Poetry Object is a poetry-writing competition for Australian students in Years 3-10. It was created by The Red Room Company, which is a not-for-profit organisation that was established in 2003. It apparently grew out of the Red Room Radio Show. The company’s aim is to create “unusual and useful poetry projects which transform expectations of, and experiences with, poetry.” They want to make poetry more accessible,  especially to “those who face the greatest barriers to creative opportunities”. They run a wide variety of, mostly, public poetry projects of which the Red Room Poetry Object is just one.

The Red Room Poetry Object was first held, I think, in 2013. It involves young writers and their teachers submitting poems of 20 lines or less about objects that are special to them. What a great idea – it provides some level of structure and framework, while being very open as well. According to the website, the 2013 project involved 72 schools from Australia and New Zealand, and they published 1200 poems by students and teachers. You can read the students’ poems here. The winning poems were exhibited from November 2013 to February 2014 at Customs House in Sydney. Submissions for this year’s project are now open, and poems can be submitted until 19 September.

Can this Snow Gum in the Snowy Mountains be my object?

Can this spirit-moving Snow Gum in the Snowy Mountains be my object?

While, formally, a “talismanic object” is “an object that brings a person protection or good luck” (like coins, a ring or other piece of jewellery), for this project Red Room is looking for objects that are special to individual people, objects that “may not be worth anything to anybody else”,  that may only be precious or important to the writer (like a favourite teddy bear). The winning Secondary Student poem last year was “My book” while the winning Primary Student poem was “Nitro car”. It’s just ten lines, and concludes:

You have an engine in your head,
and wheels in your shoes
that’s why I love you.

(James, Year 6, Holy Saviour School, NSW, Winning Student Poem (Primary), 2013)

“Making the objects sing in a new way” is how one judge apparently described it.

The teacher’s resource book includes exercises for handing out to students. I particularly like the one on “Overcoming clichés and using specific imagery”. It encourages students to think of a clichéd image, such as “as blue as XXX” and to then replace it with a more apposite image. I was only thinking about clichés the other day, about the struggle to find fresh words to use in reviews. So hard … I think I’ll go off now and have a go at that exercise …

PS the Red Room Company ran an event at the Sydney Writers’ Festival this year, the culmination of a project, which received funding from the Australia Council, and which they coordinated with ARTAND Australia.



5 thoughts on “Monday musings on Australian literature: Red Room Poetry Object Competition 2014

  1. Pingback: Guwayu – For All Times | The Australian Legend

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