Sunday poem: Debi Hamilton

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Melbourne poet Debi Hamilton had a great 2014 with prizes in two major poetry competitions.  She was second in the University of Canberra’s Vice Chancellor’s International Poetry Prize and followed up with a joint first prize in the Newcastle Poetry Prize, one of Australian’s preeminent poetry awards.  Who says there’s no money in poetry?  With her winnings Debi was able to escape her poet’s garret for a writing holiday in Venice.

Here, with Debi’s permission, is her U of Canberra prize winner:

What big plans you have

 The last delivered paper read “Mobile phone tower plan

for old growth forest in dispute.” Red Riding Hood put down

her coffee cup and reading glasses. The ghost of Wolf, silver

haired, looked back across the table. “Yes my love,”

he said, “We are no longer of this world,”

but she barely heard him, dreaming the throat feather,


the old plangent human call, of the raven. That feather

and its many cousins must weigh something. “Do you plan,”

she asked, “to join the sit in?” But of course the world

had moved on: he wouldn’t. Nor could she go down

to see the damage. She sighed. “I’d love

another coffee,” he murmured, sun glinting silver


on his breakfast smile, the very silver

glint she never could resist. “Birds of a feather,”

she thought, pouring coffee and thinking of their love

in the old times of talking animals and nothing more than a plan

to pick flowers. Outside, as if in answer, down

a tumbled cloud bank fell a flock of birds, whirled


in the thrill of flight. An hour’s drive away, the world

of the forest. Red Riding Hood cleared the silver

and plates from the table, absently bending down

to kiss the ghost of Wolf. “You know,” she said, “the feather

is such a complex thing.” She saw that it was time to plan

another forest picnic with her granddaughter, the love-


child born of their very own long ago love-

child. She smiled. It was extraordinary that the world

now wanted a mobile phone tower, planned

to despoil that very glade. Ah, not silver

then, his hair. And the forest full of flowers, fur, feathers,

secrets—not the horror later put about. She had lain down


willingly, birds singing above her, the down

of his chin in miraculous close-up as love

entered her life. Then, only last week, a feather

had caught her granddaughter’s eye. “Nana, where in the world,”

she asked, “do birds go to die?” A moment in a silver

frame. Those thousand avian hearts, wings—what was the Grand Plan?


Tomorrow they would go down, hand in hand, to the forest world

to divine how love, and life, could vanish like quicksilver,

leaving just a single feather. His ghost. No plan.


The winning and shortlisted poems from the Canberra prize are here:


You can read more of Debi’s work here: 

The painting is Carl Spitsweg’s The Poor Poet

Florian photo credit:

2 thoughts on “Sunday poem: Debi Hamilton

  1. A well deserved prize for Debi Hamilton, don’t you think? That Wolf is very vivid. It’s interesting how just a few words can bring him to life – in his old/new forms. And so is Red Riding Hood vivid – but of course it’s her voice we hear.

    1. Yes, it certainly is. And her Newcastle poem is also on the subject of Red Riding Hood, so I imagine there might be a series going on there – Debi, if you’re out there, maybe you could comment?

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