From Trash to Treasure: Melbourne poet strikes gold

The saying one man’s trash is another man’s treasure has been transformed into an award-winning poem, taking out the top-gong in the 2020 Bruce Dawe Poetry Prize competition.

Announced last week, Life Cycles of our Trash and Treasure Market by Alicia Sometimes is a nostalgic homage to her memories of a Melbourne flea market and the joys everyday observation can bring.

This year’s competition has extra sentiment following the recent passing of acclaimed author Bruce Dawe AO, who it was named after.

Winner Alicia Sometimes, who is an acclaimed writer, poet and broadcaster, said it was Dawe’s rich and incredible life that made his poems so inspiring.

“On hearing about Dawe’s passing, I went back and re-read many of his poems – a real-life mini Bruce Dawe Poetry Festival in my bedroom,” Ms Sometimes said.

“Whether it’s a poem about football, an anti-war protest or a lyrical look at love, Dawe was multi-faceted and inspired a vast array of writers.”

The Bruce Dawe Poetry Prize is one of the richest accolades in the Australian poetry society, with the winner receiving $3,000, and two highly commended entrants awarded $500 each.

Ms Sometimes, who was incredibly humbled to receive the top honour, said her piece was penned following a Sunday morning visit – many years ago – to the Dromana Drive-in Trash and Treasure market in Melbourne.

“When I was much younger, I thought the markets were a perfect place for spying,” she said.

“I loved the way people moved around each lane, and the delight on my grandma’s face as she found something she would probably never use again but thought was a bargain.”

Later in life, no matter who I was with at the markets, a sense of nostalgia and joy would stay with me,” she said.

“You took to each lane of the market as if it were a maze
always seventeen steps ahead and a keen eye—you could

spot Giovanni Bragolin’s The Crying Boy from a mile away.”
- Life Cycles of our Trash and Treasure Market

University of Southern Queensland’s (USQ) Professor Laurie Johnson, who headed the judging panel, said Ms Sometimes’ piece was brought to life through a series of powerful sensory triggers and emotional registers between the speaker and the subject.

“The way in which the life cycle of the objects within the poem are transformed from mere trash to moments in the future was particularly impressive,” Professor Johnson said.

“The sense of revelry also makes the market itself a place in which hope and human connection become possible.”

“Your eyes were murals

reflecting the kids on the slides and swings in front of you. But
I knew. I could see you had found something you would love

and take home.”
- Life Cycles of our Trash and Treasure Market

This year’s Bruce Dawe Prize attracted a record number of applications, with more than 600 entrants and 1500 poems.

“It’s bittersweet - not only because it has happened in a year marred by so much tragedy on a global scale; but also Dawe’s passing,” Professor Johnson said.

“I would like to think the record numbers has been due to many poets wanting to also pay their respects and acknowledge his long-lasting legacy.”

You can read the poem here.

lady looking at the camera
Winner Alicia Sometimes, who is an acclaimed writer, poet and broadcaster, said it was Dawe’s rich and incredible life that made his poems so inspiring.