High praise for prison writing prizewinners
THE winner of the Otago Daily
Times’ inaugural prison writing competition can finally be revealed in all its melancholic maritime majesty.
After heated debate between the three judges, they finally settled on Tuna Madness, a beautiful and vivid depiction of a tragedy at sea, invoking the power of nature and our ultimate powerlessness against it.
‘‘New Chapters’’ — an ODT initiative in conjunction with Corrections, supported by the University Book Shop (UBS) — has prompted southern prisoners to pick up their pens and let their imaginations run wild.
This week the dozens of entries were published on the ODT website and readers voted in their droves for their favourites.
The People’s Choice award was almost as hotly contested as the overall prize, but in the final day of voting a more gentle portrayal of nature had a landslide victory.
The Plover, featured in last weekend’s ODT, was the overwhelming selection and readers as far away as the United States emailed in to give it their backing.
Judge and UBS general manager Phillippa Duffy was impressed with the standard of the work and reserved special praise for her chosen winner.
‘‘Tuna Madness had some beautiful lines and imagery made all the more potent by the tension of the situation.
‘‘The way the sea and the waves are a ‘bass rumble’ and the vibrations of a ‘deep, wordless threat’ stayed with me for days after I read it,’’ she said.
‘‘It captures a West Coast community at one of its most vulnerable and dangerous times, but the author refrains from making it melodramatic.’’
Corrections senior adviser of education programmes Hayley Bell also paid tribute to the author for the tension he built and the intricate way in which the story was told.
She and ODT assistant editor Paul Gorman were thrilled The Plover had won the public vote.
He called it an ‘‘enchanting poem’’ with a heartwarming sentiment.
The winners will receive their prizes, courtesy of the UBS, at a ceremony at Otago Corrections Facility on Wednesday.
Next weekend’s ODT will feature interviews with both winners.