Clarion call to Far West poets


The judge of the Silver Tree Poetry Competition, Les Wicks, has chanced upon the literary muse in Broken Hill.

“On my first visit, I walked down this street, through the fence, and I could have this perfect solitude and the words flew onto the page,” said Mr Wicks, a prolific, Australian poet, publisher and workshop facilitator.

He draws inspiration from both the vastness of our landscape and the expanse of stories inside Broken Hill’s people.

“It’s the mix in Broken Hill of intense stories, an overload, almost, of stories of what brought them here. Those who grew up in Broken Hill, combined with the solitude, walking along the highway or in the regeneration area,” he said.

This double sweep inspired Mr Wicks to write a “huge amount of poems” in Broken Hill, including ‘Aeolus at the Mulga,’ in which is found such evocative imagery as ‘A huff of emus disperse like seeds as I approach.’


Two of his 14 published books were launched by people who grew up in Broken Hill.

“They are my really close friends, Rae Desmond Jones and Tom Thompson, who are acclaimed writers and social commentators,” said Mr Wicks.

“I’ve also made some really treasured friends in Broken Hill, the poet, Barbara De Francesci, and Mavis Sofield, who was the librarian.”

Literary types living in Far West NSW are eligible to enter the poetry competition’s Local category. A local writer can win the Local prize in the competition and may also win the Open prize, competing with poets around the country.

“This competition is really exciting,” said Mr Wicks.

“It’s only in its second year run and this year it is branching out nationally.”

Mr Wicks anticipates hundreds of entries for the $1,500 prize pool and said that literary attention will be on Broken Hill.

“I think it’s really important to have non-university, non-capital city ventures,” he said. “It’s a way for Broken Hill to say ‘Hi. I’m here’.

He believes that the competition benefits Broken Hill writers in two ways.

“It builds the reputation of Broken Hill and, at the same time, brings in a city influence,” said Mr Wicks.

“It’s a way to re-introduce and re-integrate those people in Broken Hill who write, to the broader city connections. They really are invaluable.”

Mr Wicks

Mr Wicks believes that poetry in recent years is more important than it has been for decades.

“Particularly in the time of Covid, poetry has had an enhanced role in society because so many people have been cut off from their normal life,” he said.

He sought to put words to why humans have this deeper need for poetry.

“You can create this whole world of feelings and intellectual response in 30 odd lines and this can be translated across,” said Mr Wicks.

“The simplest way of explaining it is that poetry contains the uncontainable.

“Once something is containable, it is endurable.”

Competition entry forms are available from Under The Silver Tree bookshop at 29 Sulphide Street. There is a $10 fee for each entry and entrants may submit more than one entry.

For enquires (08) 8000 1942 or [email protected]

Entries close on February 1, 2022, and the winners will be announced by Mr Wicks in April next year at a prize-giving ceremony at the Broken Hill Art Exchange, Covid- permitting, and also broadcast on 2Dry FM.

Under the Silver Tree is holding this writing competition to further its mission of encouraging reading, writing and the love of literature.


IMAGE: Prolific Australian poet, Les Wicks, is the judge of the Silver Tree Poetry Competition. PICTURE: Supplied.

This article was first published on 4 September 2021.

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