A Canberra-based poet has won the Australian Catholic University’s annual poetry prize for a poem exploring the theme of solace.
John Foulcher’s poem, Revising Casuarinas, beat a record 600 entries from every state and territory in the country to claim the $10,000 prize.
Mr Foulcher told The Catholic Weekly that the poem is dedicated to the Australian poet and friend of 40 years Robert Gray. Praised as “richly coloured” by the judges, it recalls a meeting for lunch with Mr Gray, who suffers from Parkinson’s Disease, followed by memories of their long friendship. The next day the poet he visited the cemetery where his parent’s remains are interred.
“It’s a poem about ageing, and the solace we find in things and the things we do as we grow older. It’s about memory, love, affection and friendship,” Mr Foulcher said. “And also about finding solace in the words which remain after we are gone, even though they won’t remain in the long run either.”
The 66-year-old poet and former teacher said he “honestly doesn’t know” why he is inspired to write poetry. “I think maybe it’s a way for me to explore what I don’t know,” he mused. “The first appeal of poetry is below the rational. “Of course it doesn’t stay there, I sit down and try to explore why something has struck me in that way.”
Mr Foulcher’s poem was selected ahead of Single Women In Their Later by fellow Canberran Geoff Page, who won the $5,000 second prize, and third prize-winner October Morning After Rain by Mark Tredinnick from Bowral who received $3,000.
Fifty four poems were shortlisted and judged by judged by Australian poet, academic and critic Professor Chris Wallace-Crabbe.
“As may be imagined the theme of solace reached inside our poets and far beyond or above them, at the same time,” said Professor Wallace-Crabbe. “True poems are both dense and light, musical and natural, rich and simple. Theirs is an art of concentrating paradox, and telling final truths.
“All the shortlisted poems this year underwrote such artistic need for balance, colour and – above all – truth.”
ACU’s office of the vice president, led by Father Anthony Casamento csma, sponsors the ACU Prize for Poetry with the goal of continuing the tradition of the Catholic Church as a key patron of the arts.
“The record number of entries received this year coupled with the calibre of writing demonstrates that the arts, and in specific the process of artistic creation, continues to thrive in Australia,” Fr Casamento said.
Mr Foulcher said he was “really delighted and shocked” to have won the prize. “It’s corny to say it, but when I saw the poems by the second and third prize winners I was really humbled to be among them.”
The poems will be published a chapbook which can be purchased by emailing [email protected]