August 9, 2010 | by  |
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Scrawl Poetry Competition 2010

The competition was judged by Jenny Bornholdt, current Victoria University Writer in Residence. She won the Montana Book Award for Poetry twice, the 2002 Katherine Mansfield Memorial Fellowship and she was named the fifth Te Mata Estate New Zealand Poet Laureate in 2005.

She said of winner Benjamin Kemp’s winning poem:

“In ‘Ju-ni Gatsu’ the writer has entered ‘the arteries’ of where he/she lives. I love the way an emotional state is conveyed through the careful detailing of physical life. The writing itself is ‘delicate’ and attentive—rich in detail and full of surprising images. This is a strong, quiet poem which fully realises the sense of a ‘delicate’ landscape and concludes with a gorgeous final image.”

Ju-ni Gatsu (‘December’ in Japanese) by Benjamin Kemp


Japan is delicate,
& in December when snow settles
upon the branches,
it feels like a Buddhist prayer…

Walking to work,
a stonewall shoulders my path…
it was built 700 years ago
by monks who tendered the gardens with
tiny scissors &     a clear mind…

Walking to work,
my fingertips hang out from under the
sleeves of my jacket…
tickled by a morning sun &
a frost,
fragile,     like the ribs of a leaf…

Walking to work,
the peddlers in steaming noodle
carts have faces like nourished hide…

If you get close,
their foreheads are old photos,
with grandfathers, mothers,
brothers & uncles,        resting over their brow.

Walking to work,
from Yoyogi-Uehera, where I live…
it’s saintly…
for when the sun hits…
the orange tile roofs
knelt down through the night…

they rise to their feet.

& in Shinjuku, where I work…
the People have
the temperament of porcelain,
with cheek bones
like ZEN…

& Kurosawa

& in the canal,
the carp bask under muddy glass…
sometimes twelve or thirteen at a time,
trading their safety for
the sun,

& over the bridge,
with wide hips & feet resting in a puddle…

I enter the arteries of Tokyo…
With ears open…

listening for you
for Manutuke…
the Te Arai river…
& the sound of oranges growing.

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Salient is a magazine. Salient is a website. Salient is an institution founded in 1938 to cater to the whim and fancy of students of Victoria University. We are partly funded by VUWSA and partly by gold bullion that was discovered under a pile of old Salients from the 40's. Salient welcomes your participation in debate on all the issues that we present to you, and if you're a student of Victoria University then you're more than welcome to drop in and have tea and scones with the contributors of this little rag in our little hideaway that overlooks Wellington.

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