High praise for prison writ­ing prizewin­ners

Otago Daily Times - - GENERAL - ROB KIDD

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.

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