Student's poem wins scholarship award

12 February 2021


To UQ Bachelor of Arts (English Literature and Writing) student Helen Gearing who was awarded the 2021 Kingshott Cassidy Poetry Scholarship Award. 

The scholarship was established in 2010 and is maintained by a bequest from the estate of Dorothy Susan Cassidy who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1980 and a Master of Arts in 1986. It is valued at approximately $7, 900.

Students applying for the award are required to submit an original poem and amongst other criteria, need to have demostrated academic achievement in undergraduate poetry courses. 

To celebrate Helen's wonderful achievement, the School caught up with her to discuss the inspiration behind her poetry, life as a UQ student and what plans she has for her career. 

For Helen, it is the significant people in her life who inspire her craft. 

"The inspiration for my poem was, as it often is, one of the significant people in my life.This one was inspired by the deep kindness and resilience of my little brother, Neil. Poetry is important to me because it offers a place to be both reflective and curious  and also a place to celebrate beauty." 

Helen continued, "There is something hopeful about poetry, I think, because even the most painful parts of human existence can find a home there. And somehow, under poetry’s roof even those things become, to some degree, lovely."

Describing her time at UQ, Helen talked of how it was a long journey to get to where she is now. 

"I won’t lie, a lot of my time at university has been a struggle and marked with interruptions as I tried to reconcile a deep love of learning with chronic mental health issues. I have met many beautiful staff and fellow students, though, who have encouraged me to access help and persevere in my studies. And now, graduation is just around the corner — finally!"

After finishing her studies, Helen is keen to pursue a role where she can utilise her writing skills to their fullest potential. 

"I am keen to pursue a career in communications with a value-aligned organisation. I believe every person’s story is important, and I want to help them find the tools they need to share it." 

The School wishes Helen all the best with her future endeavours and academic pursuits. 

You can view Helen's winning poem Aspie below. 


For Neil


As a kid, you studied ants—

their explorations, their jealousies,

their short lives—

as the ball flew unnoticed


into your territory

as third-base outfielder

on reluctant Softball Saturdays.

Perhaps vanguard scouts


had seized the rotting head

of a grasshopper

and the prize was being relayed

to the hive. Or perhaps


you saw a surrealist pantomime—

a paper mâché skull

wobbling and dizzy

balanced on the shoulders of tiny slaves

through a maze of green sheaves.


Likely, you’ve since become an entomologist—

but, just perhaps, you swapped

studies of Formicidae

for those of human behaviour


and learnt to trace

the branches of a thought

through neural tissue

as it pulls the strings

of words and silences. Perhaps


you hacked the root

of that one, cancerous thought,

planted in your own mind by the ignorance of a teacher

and the exclusion of a class


until it grew wide—

a cranial highway with a

solitary truck

forever transporting the same cargo:

Different. Missing. Wrong.


Poem written by Helen Gearling and published with her permission.