Prize-winning poetry from Jude Aquilina

Talented SA poet, Jude Aquilina, has just won the 2016 Adrien Abbott Prize with her poem Adrift on Lethe which we’re sharing with you here today.

The Adrien Abbott Proze was launched in 2012, in memory of Adrien – a gifted writer and inspirational teacher of English, who died before her time in May 2012. The theme for 2016 was ‘Memory’, with a prize of $500.

Adrift on Lethe

I have forgotten what it is like to hold my nakedness like a wildflower. I have forgotten the silent potency of colours, their barbs ambushing me with a childlike urge to stop and touch a pretty bit of litter. I have forgotten how to ride a bicycle; god knows, I pushed a hole in the privet hedge during those cruel months of disbelief in balance. I have forgotten the face of my father and the gossip between his clocks as they tick-tocked and chimed in disharmony. I have forgotten the sting of cold concrete on my bare bottom and the bite of a ruler on my knuckles for forgetting my underwear. I have forgotten the dream of flying – willing myself to glide down from the loquat tree and swoop over the heads of aunts and uncles; I have forgotten their eyes, their pets, their grappa and backyard goats. I have forgotten who and what I used to be. I have forgotten to comb my free time for cowry shells and spider orchids. I have forgotten how to read the shores of my old self.

The judge, Mark Tredennick, commented that ‘in the end, for its grace of language, idea and form, “Adrift” stood out … Lovely poem, which I know Adrien would have loved, and which brings her to mind to all of us who knew her.’

Congratulations Jude!


Tadpoles in the Torrens cover Tchr edn V4.indd

If you enjoyed this, why not grab a copy of Jude’s edited collection of children’s poems, Tapdoles in the Torrens: Teachers’ Edition. It also features poetry from Max Fatchen, Peter Coombe, Mike Lucas and Sean Williams, just to name a few.

Book Fair Success!

What a weekend it was!

Don Pyatt Hall looked incredible, thanks to Liz, who spent hours sewing bunting (so cool, right?) and finding the perfect decorations.

Then, the books themselves, all marked down and arranged neatly due to the enormous efforts of Trevor, our sales rep extraordinaire, and Jonny, warehouse manager and backbone of all WP’s operations.

But the best part of the whole weekend was the authors! We kicked the weekend off with Rodney Fox’s launch, and that guy can tell a yarn. The hall was in stitches for his speech, then they queued up for ages to get their books signed by the man himself.

Other highlights included Lisa Fabry’s talk on the guilt-free benefits of vegan desserts, which had us all drooling, and Derek Pedley’s explanation of the process behind Dead by Friday — an amazing book and an amazing author. Valerie Volk’s fascinating writing processes were explained, and Jude Aquilina treated us to a couple of readings. Bruce Munday explained all things stone walls and Margaret Merrilees gave an excellent overview of her work, The First Week, while Sharon Kernot explained the processes behind the creation of the world in Underground Road.

And, of course, we left Don Pyatt Hall on Sunday night with a lot less books than we’d arrived with on Friday, already talking about how we’ll do it all next year.

Thanks all for coming, enjoying, giving talks or just sipping wine. It’s lovely to have such a great bunch of people reading and interested in Wakefield titles, and it warms the cockles of our Wakefieldian hearts to know that more than a few of you will be reading our books over the break!

Author Profiles – Jude Aquilina

Jude Aquilina’s poetry and short stories have been published in newspapers, anthologies and literary journals in Australia and abroad. Jude has been a guest speaker at numerous writers’ festivals, including Adelaide Writers’ Week, Canberra Spring Poetry Festival and Penola Arts Festival. She has published two collections of her own poetry: Knifing the Ice (Friendly Street Poets/Wakefield Press 2000) and On a Moon Spiced Night (Wakefield Press 2004). She has also published one coauthored collection, WomanSpeak (Wakefield Press, 2009), co-written with Louise Nicholas, and one edited collection, Tadpoles in the Torrens (Wakefield Press, 2013). Many of her poems have won awards.

We asked Jude a few questions about being a poet, and Tadpoles in the Torrens.

Jude AquilinaCan you tell us a bit about the process for putting together Tadpoles in the Torrens? Did you have a favourite moment as editor?

A few years ago, I was looking for collections of poetry for children, by South Australian writers. I soon realized it was over 20 years since one had been published. When I told Michael Bollen, he said he’d be interested in such a book. I was excited and set about gathering the poems. It was a bit like doing a jigsaw puzzle, but it didn’t matter if pieces of the sky ended up in the river – I just chose the pieces I liked the shape, feel or colour of!  I had over 300 poems from children’s poets and authors to choose from. I called for submissions from the writing group ‘The Echidnas’ who are all published SA children’s writers, and I looked through past issues of The School Magazine (NSW Education Dept), to find SA poets who were being published at present.  I was amazed to find so many wonderful poets and poems, hiding like frogs in the state’s backyard!
Some of the best moments, as editor, were talking on the phone to the late and great Max Fatchen. He was thrilled with the idea of Tadpoles in the Torrens and would call me from time to time; he was always full of encouragement and loved to talk about poetry and words.  He told me he thought ‘Seagulls on the Oval’ was the best poem he’d ever written. I was thrilled to include it in Tadpoles in the Torrens, along with other Max Fatchen gems.  I loved Max’s sense of humour and the way he wrote about everyday things, yet made them special – and he never said a bad word about anyone. He will always be my writing role-model.

Do you have a writing routine? Why/why not?

No, I do not have a routine and never have.  As a freelance writer/mentor and TAFE teacher, my working hours are haphazard, so there is not much point in a strict routine. I prioritise. This means some projects on the back-burner take longer, but I believe writing and publishing books happens from a cumulative effect. Eventually everything you do comes in handy!

Is there one poem that has inspired you more than any other? If so, what is it and why?

Throughout my childhood, my father read poetry to me from little suede-covered books.  I loved all the English poets, but the poem I thought about the most was a poem called ‘The Sands of Dee’ by Charles Kingsley. It was about Mary, who went to bring the cattle home, but a high tide came and drowned her. I’d lay awake in bed, thinking of Mary and all those bloated cows … And never home came she … for the cruel, foaming sea, the cruel, hungry sea, had taken her away! Later, I discovered contemporary women poets like Gwen Harwood and Judith Wright whose poetry  inspired me to write my own poetry.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?

If I die, I’d like to come back as a pelican … a large bird that other birds can’t pick on; liked by humans and not considered edible, that lives near water, fishes and flies around all day and fills its bill with nibblies for later on.

What are your favourite Wakefield Press titles, aside from your own, and why?

An all-time favourite WP book is The River Kings by Max Fatchen.  I think every South Australian should read this book. Max was a master story-teller and captures the SA landscape and its people so accurately. A recent favourite novel is Margaret Merrilees’ The First Week.  I couldn’t put this beautifully-written book down. No wonder it won the WP Unpublished Manuscript Award. The story is told through the eyes of a country mum (like me) in such a way that the reader becomes that character as she finds out about a tragedy that will change her life.  Another favourite is The Colour of Kerosene by Cameron Raynes. I’ve always loved reading short stories and this collection of stunning contemporary stories continues to resonate. And of course there are many poetry books I love, including Miriel Lenore’s In the Garden, and Mike Ladd’s Karrawirra Parri. It’s great to see WP supporting genres like poetry and short stories, when they are not considered fashionable (goodness knows why!).