The 2021 Grieve writing competition is now open.
Here are the results from the 2020 competition:
The 2021 Grieve writing competition is now open.
Here are the results from the 2020 competition:
Available now - Grieve volume 8 photograph by Ian Creek Photography Click to purchase
The major award winners are: The National Association of Loss and Grief (NALAG) Awards: Invisible Ink by Sam X. Tan Awarded $1500 Pinwheels by Edwina Shaw Awarded $500 Eucalyptus citriodora by Gina Mercer Awarded $500 The Pettigrew Family Funeral Awards: Word Search by Beth Clapton Awarded $500 Lullaby by Eryn Purcell Awarded $500
More prize winners:
Alison Jeffries wins the $500 Palliative Care Award for her poem ‘The Last Swim’. Here is an excerpt:
Over and over I see it Her last swim Her tentative step on the sand Small aqua booties Small feet Hair, soft as a baby’s Short tufts, blonde and white Stolen by chemo
Kaylia Payne of ACT wins the $250 Quest for Life award - a twin pack for two to attend a Quest for Life course of choice. Here is an excerpt from Kaylia's piece: I don’t have stories anymore. I have A Story: Daniel died. It’s the story of my past, present and future, rewriting everything that came before and everything that could have been until there are only those two words left. Daniel died Daniel was my brother. Is my brother. Was my brother? I still don’t know which tense to use; people get uncomfortable either way. Which is why, for the most part, I don’t talk about him at all.
Judy Johnson of NSW wins the $250 Newcastle Memorial Park Award for her brilliant poem 'Under the Sun'. Here is an excerpt: How many times must I look at the screen of my ringing phone expecting your face and name to be calling. And at what point will I un-remember your hands behind my dress tugging the small, spliced tracks of zip together. Then gently kissing my neck in gratitude . . .
Kim Langcake of Vic wins the $300 All About Grief award. Doris Zagdanski donates the prize and is a devoted judge on the Grieve team. Kim Langcake's piece 'Chantelle' tells the story from the viewpoint of a sibling whose mother has lost a baby. We recommend you read the piece in its entirety (purchase the anthology here). Doris Zagdanski said she chose the piece to win the award because she "loved the way the sibling was concerned that her sister's name might be amongst the things that were lost. In my empathy training programs, I always talk about the significance of saying the name of the one who has died, and I remember once reading a quote from a bereaved Dad who said, when you don't mention my son's name, my son dies twice."
Linda Harding of NSW wins the $250 Good Grief Award for her piece 'Kindness'. As the parent watches the kindness of the ICU nurse she then considers the kindness of others following a tragic death. Here is an excerpt: There were other kind people that day: the paramedics, the strangers on the beach who cared for your brothers, orderlies and cleaners at the hospital, friends who sat with us and prayed. There was the young doctor who had to tell us there was no hope left and you would die at only four years old. His eyes were full of tears. They were tears for us and for himself. He had poured out his days and nights learning how to save yet here he faced a terrible impotence. He could not save you. No one could save you.
Jackie Tritt of Vic wins the $250 Lake Macquarie Memorial Park Award for her piece 'After the Music'. Here is an excerpt: And when you yellowed and sickened; when cancer and pain crept through your body, you naturally turned to music for solace. Friends arrived week after week bearing instruments and memories. Celtic friends, bluegrass friends, jazz friends, uni friends. Each transported you to another time, another place. Each took you to another level where there was no pain and a beatific smile spread across your face.
Sam Morley of Vic wins the $200 Simplicity Funerals Award for his poem 'Verandah'. Like Dani Glatz's poem, it is short but powerful. A beautiful piece about a child's experience at a funeral. The Grieve Anthology 2020 is now available for pre-order from Booktopia
Dani Glatz of ACT wins the $200 David Lloyd Funerals Award for his poem. We love the tiny but powerful works we receive into the Grieve project. Here we publish the piece in its entirety: He always carries a hanky ‘Man-sized’ Dad sized Ironed and folded And well-worn like him The old-fashioned habit of a gentle man And as men who are gentle do He gave me his hanky At her funeral Somewhere to put my tears Whilst keeping his own inside
Janet Lee of Qld wins the White Lady Funeral Services award for her stirring piece 'After'. It is hard to find an excerpt that captures the mood and grief of the piece. Remember you can pre-order the 2020 Grieve anthology here. Here's an excerpt from 'After' In the stillness of After, I remember my mother taking the clothes and nappies away. Just like they had taken her. But not to the same place. I remember my mother packing things away, tidying things up, wiping things clean. Taking the memories somewhere else. I looked, but did not see. Because it was After.
Linda Godfrey of NSW wins the $200 Calvary Mater award for her prose poem 'Update on Lulu'. Selected by Mary Ringstad from Calvary Mater Hospital. Mary said the piece showed 'raw energy and captured the powerful force of grief.' Mary has been involved in the Grieve project since its first year. Read about her here Here's an excerpt from Linda Godfrey's piece: Lulu dreams of phones ringing in the middle of the night but can’t find hers. Waiting on the ring, dreading the ring. Who knew after watching all those tv programs where people fall down, instantly dead, that death is a drawn out process of slowly shutting down. What a thing, such a thing. They say death comes in threes. It was a race to the end between Tao and Dad. Who will be the third? Maybe a noisy miner, maybe a lorikeet, wasn’t there a spotted dove recently? Let's count that and be done. Lulu is an orphan. A hoarder of bones and ash, a hoarder of secrets.
Marjorie Lewis-Jones wins the $200 Interflora Award for her piece 'In the Long Run' - a short piece that reads with a pace like someone running. Read Marjorie's piece in the 2020 Grieve anthology, volume 8. Pre-order today .
Hannah Trott of NSW wins the $200 award donated by Nathan Richter's family, in his honour. Hannah's piece, titled 'Small Steps', shares the internal dialogue we often narrate before a funeral as we try to keep under control all the anger, guilt, distress and distraction that is grief. It is poignant, real and full of detail we can all relate to. An excerpt: With trembling hands I did all 17 tiny buttons up, brushed out my hair and debated over putting on lipstick. Don’t want to look too put together or people will think I’m not grieving properly, don’t want to look too dishevelled either, I’m talking at this thing after all. God, why do I even care what people think? I came out of the bedroom and looked at my partner sitting at the kitchen table like any other morning. He looked up at me, ‘ready?’ Just get to the car.
Scott-Patrick Mitchell of WA wins the $100 Hunter Writers Centre Award for his poem 'Vessels'. Here is a small excerpt from the poem: We gathered as if this were a place of work, because all family is labour, needs constant tending. Unconditional, our love was service at kitchen’s altar. We piled pills as sacrament: vitamins in my palm, medication in yours. You always drank first from the jug, my handprint engulfing the fade of yours: how whorls blessed and pressed us into us. The topography of your skin stretched through a century. How those age spots were not there when you first baptised me beneath the current of your lungs.
Jean Kearney of NSW wins the $200 In Memoriam Award in memory of Maree Richardson whose daughter donated the award. Here's a short excerpt from the quiet and gently paced piece by Jean: On her last afternoon, we moved her metal-frame hospital bed into the centre of the lounge, where we usually passed 40°C days watching Midsomer Murders and blasting Louis Armstrong. The great-grandchildren had been driven off ten minutes earlier and there was no hum of energy to fend off the hoarse breaths. I sat deep in an armchair, slightly removed, and quietly sketching—a shield to observe this most private moment—to know where to be.
Chloe Brien of Vic wins the $100 Newpsych Award for her piece 'How to Make Sage Butter'. Here is the first half of this beautiful poem: Serves 1 Pick a small handful of sage from the garden you grew as a reminder that some things can never be tamed. Tear up the sage with shaking hands. In a medium pan, add torn sage to one tablespoon unsalted butter. Stir slowly with a wooden spoon. Try not to burn the butter, but if you do let it show how life doesn’t always go to plan. Season, then heat until the sage becomes fragrant. Let the perfumed oil reach your nose, bringing back that night a cortège of you lit a smoking brand in the room where she died, smudging the air to show her the way home. Feel the sting of tears and put down the spoon.
Jessica Valvasori of WA wins the $100 'Our World' Award for her piece 'Fire Once Applied to Feathers'. Here's an excerpt: Rainbow Lorikeet. Possibly a Honeyeater. A Juvenile Crimson Rosella. Unidentifiable Parrot. Possibly a Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo. Species Unknown. Species Unknown. I stare vacantly at the lifeless wet piles of birds, feeling an overwhelming need to witness. Sand clings to black shapes, smothering flight. Smothering beauty and identity. In a single colourless photograph, the Mallacoota birds lie butterflied along the beach. A string of incongruous debris: unbelonging to the land. These washed-up angels of fire.
Anthony Williamson of NSW wins the $100 Canteen Award for his piece 'Phone-Calls and Waterfalls'. Here's an excerpt: I’m oceans away when she calls. She sounds adrift, It’s come out of the blue, MS and cancer. Her words pound into me like roaring breakers. Stage four… nodes… aggressive… untreatable… I steal a breath and splutter out platitudes, Sis, everything will be fine. Really. The kids, she whispers and swallows. I recall a lifetime earlier, when we were small, She fell so ill that my father had to drive her to hospital. They kept her in Intensive Care for days, but I steadfastly refused to visit. If she couldn’t say goodbye to me, I knew she’d have to come home. And I was proudly right. I phone each week to be there. She tries everything, suffers more. It even submerges for a while before bursting out and drenching her.
John O'Callaghan of NSW wins the $100 Blue Knot Foundation Award for his piece '7 White - 1976'. Here's an excerpt: He marched in, shining black shoes, crisp white dress with black cord holding together his strange uniform from another century. Brother Cassian Blackwood was the most frightening man we would ever meet in our lives. He still hadn’t said a word. He was scanning the silent room looking for someone to attack, assault, fling against his blackboard and we all knew this. We were 12 years old. I sat terrified, trying not to be; trying not to be noticed; trying to feign invisibility, yet, I and all of us knew we were trapped for the next 40 minutes which felt like hours.
Kelli Hawkins of NSW wins the $100 Maclean's Booksellers Award for her piece 'Moments'. Here's an excerpt:
When you died, I was relieved. I couldn’t tell anyone that, of course. What would they think? Relieved my husband was dead. I couldn’t tell them how it felt watching cancer take over your body. Watching it infect your blood. Your bones. Even your mind. I hated so much about you being sick. I hated it when the nurses came to wash you. I’d hover, protective but useless. It hurts him to move, I’d say, the words not conveying the horror of your pain. I’d hope they’d put it off. Sometimes they did. But it had to be done. By the end five nurses were needed.
Fiona Lynch of Vic wins the $100 Compassionate Friends Award for her piece 'Key Change'. Here's an excerpt: . . . the kitchen sink, his arms around your thighs, deckled light in the story chair, bedtime kisses to his forehead, sheets printed with blue planes, you tippy-toeing back to the lounge, the warm belly of a mug of tea, him dreaming. Grief watches your folded songs, cups your shoulder, taps the metronome . . .
Megan Brown of Qld wins the $100 Mindframe Award for her piece 'The Story of Us'. Here's an excerpt: I felt like I lost him even before he left this earth. The man I loved deeply and truly had been wandering in the shadows for some time. But now the shadows had absorbed him whole. Leaving behind beautiful memories that would make me weep. . . . It felt like moments ago that he was alive. Yet, he had already been gone. Lost within himself and his own mind that it felt like he didn’t even exist anymore. Like he was dead, before being declared dead. That’s what I had feared the most—the phone call no one wants to hear. The phone call that would shatter my heart more than anything else. I felt like I had lost a part of myself. Left numb and fighting to stay afloat. As I finally received that shattering phone call, silent tears streamed down my face as my mind absorbed the news.
Susan Tattersall of Vic wins the $100 Hunter New England Mental Health Award. Ian Rawson, from HNE Mental Health, chose the piece because of the fact that the loss of her mother, and the grief felt there, ultimately led to the realisation of another type of un-acknowledged grief / trauma, and the decision to work through that grief in honour of the mother. Here's an excerpt: You were pale in your chair, in the corner of your lounge of over 45 years when I rose that morning. No breath to cause the rise and fall of your chest, and pale, but serene and peaceful. In the months after you died, I worked through my thoughts with pages of words. I wrote of our love and friendship, our years together and how proud and honoured I was to be your daughter and friend, and still am. After a while, my thoughts and my writing changed. It was as if a chasm had opened and was being filled with unwanted policing memories. And then one cool morning with the sun emerging out of the darkness and the air crisp, I wrote, ‘I think I’ve finally got it. While you were alive, my demons were kept at bay. Now I can’t talk with you, they are unleashed!'
Chloe Warren of NSW wins a $100 World Award. Here is the opening of her piece to be published in the 2020 Grieve anthology: In November I awoke with an aching throat from the bushfire smoke. Emerging from my air-conditioned office block into the haze one afternoon, I remember peeling a plastic sticker from an apple and acknowledging, 'The world would be cleaner if I did not exist.' I didn’t know what to do with my body at night. We had nowhere to put the unrest; we continued our lives as normal while our country burned and others disappeared under water. What were we to do? In December I flew back to England. My grandfather had been suddenly hospitalised, and he died ten days later. We grieved for the loss of him at the same time as trying to piece together a new semblance of normality for my grandmother, whose Alzheimer’s had already begun to erode her memories, identity, and resilience. Each evening, we watched the news of the fires at home and I couldn’t tell where any of the pain came from anymore. My world had fallen apart. The world was falling apart. We took it in turns to cope, each waiting our turn to collapse under the weight of what we had lost.
Grieve Project Finalists from previous years
Video-reading of 'On Being Offered a Last Day' by Madeleine Dale about the experience of reminiscing the life of a loved one
Video-reading of 'New Year's Day' by Ned Stephenson about the experience of drought
Video-reading of 'Thirty One Steps Before I Bury My Sister' by Dan Shushko about the experience of the death of your sibling
Feedback from Grieve Volume 8
Thank you for producing another wonderful, diverse and touching publication for those experiencing grief. I found some of the pieces very moving and it has been good to once more find myself not alone in my pain but in a fellowship of travellers on a journey. I think that is what Grieve does so well, it alleviates the sense of isolation we feel and comforts us when others are able to describe the all too familiar landscape of our own grief.
As a person experiencing the death of my husband, and both parents over the time span of 10 years, I turned to writing poetry. Apart from the the realisation that I could still put one step in front of the other, it was another thing that somehow made life bearable. I would mostly turn to the blank page when my need for expression of the grief was so visceral and so desperate that it completely eclipsed the will to do anything else. Pen and a blank paper, any random bit I could find, became my companion. The simple act of writing my tumultuous thoughts necessitated they take some shape, some form. I would almost always start writing not knowing what was to come, but the words arranged themselves despite myself and I often found by the end that I felt more at peace. There was some kind of resolution, even if that resolution was another deeper question. Something was settled. It was a minute advancement, another step in the longest (and ongoing) journey.
To have one of my poems accepted for the anthology is not only validation of the poem but of my grief experience and in some way honouring of the person who died.
Having cared for my mother before she passed away, and then for my son who battles depression and attempted suicide, this publication means so much, because it is a forum for little-discussed, or often-misunderstood, things to be explored artistically. Reading the book, I feel a great sense of connection with others, and admiration for all contributors. There is no other such outlet in the arts for this particular branch of emotions – grief – to be delved into and expressed, and then upheld in print.
I was so proud to see my own story in this anthology. It is a fabulous project, and gives us a voice to express our grief in different ways.
At first glance it might seem/feel that an anthology on grief is not the place to find solace in 2020. I don’t know if it is my particular makeup, or my experiences with grief, PTSD and loss which make me feel better when I read about how badly other people have had it.
But I feel better when I read this book. I take comfort from the many questions I see raised in the pages; we ask ourselves, could it, should it have been different? What do I do now with these feelings?
Some of us, we turn them into words and put them on the page and the pages make a book and hopefully, the words in that book help someone else feel a bit better, or heard, or understood, or less alone in sadness.
I love seeing all the different ways people interpret or express grief. On a personal note, the little poem Shadow, Russ Talbot just nailed it for me. I took a sharp intake of breath and felt the impact when it ‘hit’.
I think that’s the thing, we all feel it in different ways, but are unified with someone who can put it into the right words…
Reading this wonderful anthology it’s really hit home what a universal, even uniting, thing grief is – I’ve found it very moving. And I relate to so much of it.
History of the Grieve Project Each year, Australians living here and abroad submit poems up to 36 lines or stories/personal essays up to 500 words and approximately 100 works are published in the annual anthology. The book is launched in August - Grief Awareness month in Australia. 2020 is the 8th year of the project. There is now a dedicated Grieve Project website where people around the world can read the wonderful writings by Australians. You can also purchase a past anthology. The competition opens on Valentine's Day each year and closes in May. Judging takes place through June and we spend August sharing works in a variety of ways - online and at live readings. The team of judges come from all fields - grief and loss industries as well as from the literary world. The prizes are kindly donated by organisations and individuals. Would you like to donate a prize in memory of a loved one or colleague? Learn more
List of writers whose work is published in the 2020 Grieve anthology selected by our wonderful team of judges.
Writing about Suicide.
Did you know, for every 1 suicide there are 5 suicide attempts?
“People feel they need to have a platform to be able to talk about suicide. Grief associated with suicide can be quite different . . . families often feel quite isolated . . . writing about it can provide a safe space for them to express and externalise their grief rather that can be quite internalised and kept silent.” Jenyfer Locke says. Hear her interview:
Organisations most relevant to this interview – click to read many resources on this topic:
Do you wish to donate a prize to the Grieve Competition? Remember a loved one via our In Memoriam project Learn more about honouring a loved one via our In Memoriam project
Video-reading of 'Baby' by Shannon Hayes about the experience of having a stillborn baby