Powerful poem about boat people wins award

 

Two 11-year old Sydney students who wrote a poem about the boat people experience have jointly won the prestigious Dorothea Mackellar Memorial Society and Community Relations Commission Poetry Award for 2012.

Alexander Maloof and Rhys Halkidis were presented with their award by the Minister for Citizenship and Communities Victor Dominello at Trinity Grammar Preparatory School in Strathfield.

“These two young Australians demonstrate that they clearly understand the challenge of the refugee who leaves everything behind and seeks safety somewhere else in an unknown place,” Mr Dominello said.

“Our nation is built on people who came here by boat, big and small. Alexander and Rhys have grasped the pain of the homeless person when they say:

Forced to flee and left with nothing, The conflict has taken it all.

“I agree with the judges’ comment that Silento ad Mare (Silence at Sea) is a powerful and timely poem.

“Of course, it deals with a controversial subject but poetry, as an important part of literature, should always tackle the difficult subjects.

 

Silentio ad Mare (Silence at Sea)

 

Heads under hands and not a single breath audible,

The boat at a creak with every wave.

Forced to flee and left with nothing,

The conflict has taken it all.

Haunting memories with no one to trust,

Families, treasures and memories are gone.

 

People packed tightly no space to breathe,

Any movement will result in peril.

Stomachs are starved no time to eat,

Water as far as the eye can see,

Any second might be your last.

 

With these thoughts in mind your home is far,

And sickness draws near as hopes run free.

Your safety is like a thread,

Once cut can’t be restored.

 

When the flashing lights appear at sea,

The blankets are drawn and all is still.

For getting caught is not intended.

 

Heads under hands and not a single breath audible,

The boat at a creak with every wave.

 

Silentio ad mare (meaning silence at sea)

 

 

Judges’ Comment

Silento ad Mare is a powerful and timely poem. It gives the reader a harrowing glimpse of what it must be like to leave all that is familiar, of great loss, fear of the unknown and hope for the future. The poets’ use of the analogy of safety being like a thread evokes the fragility of the situation for the occupants of the boat. The flashing lights might be symbolic of hope, but even then the terror of being caught is dominant. The repeat of the first line at the conclusion of the poem reinforces the breathtaking fear of those seeking refuge.

 

 

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