Brian's Written Bush Verse Judging Criteria



Is your organisation looking for a judge for a written Bush Verse competition?

 If so, then I submit myself as a candidate for the position.   Reading below, you may find that some of my criteria have importance different from those adopted by some other judges.  I make no apology for this, It is these differences which give a diversity to poems which “make the grade” in various competitions having different judges.

 My personal details are:

Brian Langley
Postcode       6102



 Bush Poetry experience     Writer since approx 1985;   Performer since 2004;    Facilitator / Presenter  for workshops on Writing and Performing Bush Poetry at schools, U3A, Library Groups, State and Regional Writers festivals;  Bush Poetry historian, specialising in the early Bush Poets of Western Australia;  State President , WA Bush Poets,  organiser of several State championships.

 Whilst I do not enter many competitions (I write for interest rather than for competition), I have to my credit various awards for both performance and writing.  My highest achievements have been 

WA State Championships: -  2nd Overall  Performance,  1st   Written,  1st Novice original (Performance),  1st Original Serious (Performance)
Golden Damper Awards     (Performance,  Own work)  Tamworth NSW    2013 2nd ;   2014  1st
Regional Written Verse Competitions – several 1st placings

Other Writing Experience -  In my previous employment I was a Technical Officer (Training)  which involved many aspects of written communication.  I have also written a comprehensive family history, a 200 page book of my poetry as well as 2 (with more to come?) compilations of post-colonial WA poetry with associated historical notes.  I have written extensive training notes for several craft organisations

Judging Experience
Performance  -  State Junior Championships
Written -  Chief / Sole judge for several years of the Boyup Brook and the Cervantes  Written Bush Poetry Competitions (both having Australia wide entrants).
I have been an active participant in workshops (Writing, Performance and Judging)  presented by many of Australia’s leading Bush Poets

 My Judging philosophy:     Whilst  the appeal of any one particular poem to a judge is largely subjective there are criteria which must be taken into account. The significance of these various criteria is what differentiates between judges.

 My primary judging criteria are those written into the conditions of entry -  These are generally relatively simple consisting of  “Very Good and consistent Rhyme and Metre”,  “An Australian theme”, and often a maximum number of lines.   

 As Poetry in general is an artform, I strongly believe that the poet should be allowed as much flexibility of expression as possible within the confines specified in the “Conditions of Entry”    Other (and lesser) criteria will be used only to separate the position of poems reaching my “short list” .  There are however a number of other issues which I am likely to penalise.

 Below are some notes on my judging criteria.

 Initial and Overall Assessment- When I am first confronted with a new poem, I read it out loud – I am looking for poems that flow well throughout, do not cause me to “stumble” in my reading and do not contain words that I am unfamiliar with or do not know how to pronounce    - 

 I am also looking for a good original story which has a beginning which attracts my interest, logical and interesting  progression throughout the poem, (avoiding procrastination) and a fitting conclusion.  It should have general appeal to a wide audience and should avoid “localisation” (unless this is a specified criterion).

 The poem should “stand up on its own” without the need for lengthy explanatory notes  (short explanations are acceptable when using  words which are Australian, but no longer in common usage,  provided they are in context).

 Language - The language (and theme) should be “Australian”.   The use of foreign (including commonly used American) words in place of Australian – (eg  ass, butt, cookies, candy, sidewalk, flashlight  etc. ) will be penalised  unless the story is looking at Non Australian subjects from an Australian point of view. 
e.g.   “They call their biscuits ‘cookies’, their bum they call an ‘ass’.

Contractions, Word Combinations and Abbreviations, –  Australian spoken English contains many such words and combinations, (e.g.  hist’ry,  didn’t,  couldn’t,  e’er,  struth [‘s’truth] )    in many cases reducing the number of syllables (this can be used to advantage in setting metre).  I have no problem with such words PROVIDED there is consistency within various characters in the poem and they are used in context.     

I have no problems with mild strong language, but will not accept words which would generally offend older conservative readers.  If in doubt – Don’t use them.   Offensive words in terms of race, religion, sexual orientation etc  may be acceptable if they are in a context which does not vilify any group or individual.  

 Made-up words  -  this is sometimes a useful poetic tool (Shakespeare made up over 200 new words, many of which are now in common use)  BUT the meaning MUST BE OBVIOUS  -  such words should be suitably indicated by quotes or italics  

 Slang – again I have no problems BUT the word should be in common usage (across most age groups) and its meaning clear.   It too should be in context.

 Purposely mis-spelled words to indicate pronunciation   e.g.  agen,  are acceptable but should be suitably indicated. 

 Writing in the vernacular -  Acceptable, provided there is consistency and it is in context with the character(s)  but as such poems are often difficult to read, they may fail the first reading test. 
   e.g.      “Now, where’s ‘e goin’?”  ‘e sez to ‘er, an’ scratched ‘is baldin’ ‘ead.

 Rhyme -  This is one of the Prime Criteria and MUST be met for the poem to be acceptable.
I am looking for perfect rhyme of the SPOKEN WORD (in Australian “common” English)
I will accept rhyme using abbreviated, contracted or combination words,  eg    Autumn  and  Taught ‘em

 Forced Rhyme (ie -  diverting from the story line, just to create rhyme)  will attract penalties

 Metre – Also a Prime Criteria, and the one which causes the most difficulty  for writers – Consistency is the key word, in terms of both “stress pattern”  and verse structure  -  It is the underlying consistency of the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables which sets “Bush Poetry” apart from most other styles of rhymed verse.  A poem must not mix stress patterns.  The words MUST have been chosen to fit the underlying consistent stress pattern,  not  by expecting the stress pattern to fit the words.

 All verses should have the same rhyming line structure, (The last verse may have an additional line(s))

The complexity of the verse structure will only be used to separate “front runners,”  more complex structures may attract “bonus marks”

A “chorus” (if used and appropriate)  may have a different structure to the main verses  but must, itself be consistent   

There are a few exceptions to this which could be viewed favourably -  i.e.  where a poem looks at a topic from two entirely different perspectives. (eg  alternate verses from the perspective of (a) a person looking at a picture   and (b) the person IN the picture  -  each point of view may have a different structure )

 Punctuation, Capitalisation, Grammar etc -  I do not look for “proper English” in these aspects, only that “ends of ideas” should be indicated, as should the location of pauses.  (an end of line is not necessarily a pause).  There MUST however be CONSISTENCY of these aspects within the poem.  

 “Poetic Tools”,  The use (but not overuse or misuse)  of  alliteration,  connotation, figurative language, metaphors (rather than similes) etc. etc.   will be considered favourably in determining placings from a “short list”   

 Accuracy   The use of discrepancies in time and place (i.e.  now and then,   here and there issues) as well as obvious errors in describing natural phenomena (except when using hyperbole etc) will attract penalties

 Conclusion – Provided the poem meets the basic criteria listed in the entry conditions, It is the Overall Story and its appeal to me that is of importance – not how grammatically correct it is, or if there is a spelling mistake

 Costs – Consistent with those of ABPA  accredited judges    ie 

As at January 2014, my charges are:

A ‘one-off’ fee of $50  (This will include correspondence with the organisers,  also an overall Judges report     

 PLUS    $2 per poem (minimum 50 poems, then per 10 poems or part thereof)    (Short poem reduction - $1.50 per poem for competitions where the maximum poem length is 32 lines or less)

These fees are negotiable in some circumstances    please contact me



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