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2019 Winner, John Watson

We are pleased to announce John Watson as the 2019 Bruce Dawe National Poetry Prize winner with his poem 'At Sackville Crossing'.

This year, judges awarded a 2nd place to Tahra Baulch with her poem ‘Bedtime’.

At Sackville Crossing

by John Watson

When I was here a year ago,
In notices about the gates
And who should legally open them,
A gerund was so hedged about
With plurals that, quite plausibly,
It had been given a plural verb.

The sign had read The Opening
Of Gates By Persons Other Than
The Ferrymaster Are Prohibited.
The plural verb seemed resonant,
As swallows perched above the sign
And the sunlight seemed indifferent.

Today I crossed that stream again
And looked with pleasure for the sign
To feel the frisson of that ‘are’
So carefully well-meaning. But
I was confounded and perplexed
To find the signs corrected. Doubt

That subject and its distant verb
Had ever been disjunctly joined
Washed over me. The cable creaked.
The swallows still swerved round their nest,
And like a silver cattle grid
Light flowed beneath our shallow prow.

The singular ‘is’, so innocent,
So blandly, modestly correct,
Belied that former recklessness ...
I stared at it until, relieved,
I traced the faint outlines in dust
Of where that plural once had been.

The youthful ferrymaster stood
Within his cabin looking out.
A bakery’s delivery van
Had driven to these very gates;
Its driver with a loaf of bread
Stood in the ferrymaster's shed.

And then I foolishly enquired,
Above the chugging motor's roar,
When had these painted signs been changed.
The youth looked down derisively.
‘So you're the one who rang, complained
And wasted everybody's time.’


by Tahra Baulch

here grumbles in my tumble pup
my moochy mooky roily ruff
the tiny toesy skip trip one
with rosy cheeks and padwhack bum

come smooch patooch and honey grin
we’ll skirl skamoo and duffer spin
a kooka kooka burra’s laugh
a wombat’s womp a frilledneck’s scarf

while bandicoots do snuffly sniffs
and cockatoos be blackened scriffs
of ancient engineering
more scrawk and eeking flap and rise
we’ll curl around the pummel pines
whose cones will drop a plonk of thud
from sky high tops to
plush moss mud

let’s rollahippotrundlemore
we’ll rumbleoomph the playroom floor
till rubbing eyes and fuzzled heads
and bumpy knees mean nearing zeds

time for bubbledeepenough
time to ookypooky buff
to water till the wrinkle prunes
make sealy slippy drippy droons

then come to rundle twisty wrap
let me enround the yawny yap
we’ll shnoog manoog and fumble flop
and snuggleupski bumble drop

now cosy clothes and dozy muffs
for cuddledrunks and sillyduffs
some hushabyes and story snuff
there’s never quite enough enough
too soon we’re deep in doona pluff
and nestling in to sleep