Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards and Queensland Literary Awards

Whilst personally I am finding it very hard to find the time to write up blog posts, the literary award scene continues to make announcements so I thought it timely that I bring you up to date with two Australian based awards.

Firstly, the Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards were announced last night, and there are a host of categories. As regular visitors here would know I generally only get to the poetry collections for these awards and I did read the full shortlist (links to my reviews by clicking on the title):

Dougan, Lucy The Guardians Giramondo (2015)

Holland-Batt, Sarah The Hazards University of Queensland Press (2015)
Kissane, Andy Radiance Puncher & Wattmann (2014)
Maiden, Jennifer The Fox Petition Giramondo (2015)
Malouf, David Earth Hour University of Queensland Press (2014)



The winners of each category were as follows:

Fiction – The Golden Age by Joan London

Non-Fiction – This House of Grief by Helen Garner

Children’s Books – The Duck and the Darklings by Glenda Millard, illustrated by Stephen Michael King

Poetry – The Guardians by Lucy Dougan

State Library of WA Western Australian History – Running out? Water in WA by Ruth A. Morgan

Young Adult – The Protected by Claire Zorn

Western Australian Emerging Writers Award – Lost and Found by Brooke Davis

Scripts – Dust by Suzie Miller

Digital Narrative – Timelord Dreaming by David P. Reiter

People’s Choice Award – Fever of Animals by Miles Allinson

Premier’s Prize – This House of Grief by Helen Garner

Helen Garner took home $25,000 for winning the Premier’s Prize. Awards are biennial so books published in 2016 and 2017 will be eligible for the 2018 Awards.

The Queensland Literary Awards Shortlists were announced some time ago but the winners will be announced tomorrow so here is a listing of the shortlisted books.


Queensland Premier’s Award for a work of State Significance

– Prize $25,000

Nadia Buick & Madeleine King Remotely Fashionable: A Story of Subtropical Style (The Fashion Archives)

Matthew Condon All Fall Down (UQP)

Elspeth Muir Wasted (Text Publishing)

P. J. Parker The Long Goodbye (Hardie Grant Books)

Lesley and Tammy Williams Not Just Black and White (UQP)


The University of Queensland Fiction Book Award

– Prize $10,000

Tony Birch Ghost River (UQP)

Georgia Blain Between a Wolf and a Dog (Scribe Publications)

David Dyer The Midnight Watch (Penguin Random House)

Patrick Holland One (Transit Lounge Publishing)

Charlotte Wood The Natural Way of Things (Allen & Unwin)


The University of Queensland Non-Fiction Book Award

– Prize $10,000

Madeline Gleeson Offshore: Behind the Wire on Manus and Nauru (NewSouth Publishing)

Stan Grant Talking to My Country (HarperCollins Australia)

Drusilla Modjeska Second Half First (Penguin Random House Australia)

Tim Winton Island Home (Penguin Random House)

Fiona Wright Small Acts of Disappearance: Essays on Hunger (Giramondo Publishing)


Griffith University Young Adult Book Award

– Prize $10,000

Will Kostakis The Sidekicks (Penguin Random House)

David Metzenthen Dreaming the Enemy (Allen & Unwin)

Glenda Millard The Stars at Oktober Bend (Allen & Unwin)

James Roy and Noël Zihabamwe One Thousand Hills (Scholastic Australia)

Claire Zorn One Would Think the Deep (UQP)


Griffith University Children’s Book Award

– Prize $10,000

Lucy Estela, illustrator: Matt Ottley Suri’s Wall (Penguin/Viking)

Bob Graham How the Sun Got to Coco’s House (Walker Books)

Libby Hathorn; illustrator: Gaye Chapman Incredibilia (Little Hare)

Julie Hunt; illustrator:Dale Newman KidGlovz (Allen & Unwin)

Chris McKimmie Me, Teddy (Allen & Unwin)


University of Southern Queensland History Book Award

– Prize $10,000

Vicken Babkenian and Peter Stanley Armenia, Australia and the Great War (NewSouth Publishing)

Stuart Macintyre Australia’s Boldest Experiment: War and reconstruction in the 1940s (NewSouth Publishing)

Julia Martinez and Adrian Vickers The Pearl Frontier: Indonesian Labor and Indigenous Encounters in Australia’s Northern Trading Network (University of Hawaii Press)

Jeff Maynard The Unseen Anzac (Scribe Publications)

John Newton The Oldest Foods on Earth: A history of Australian native foods with recipes (NewSouth Publishing)

Garry Wotherspoon Gay Sydney: A History (NewSouth Publishing)


University of Southern Queensland Australian Short Story Collection – Steele Rudd Award

– Prize $10,000

Tegan Bennett Daylight Six Bedrooms (Penguin Random House)

Sonja Dechian An Astronaut’s Life (Text Publishing)

Elizabeth Harrower A Few Days in the Country and Other Stories (Text Publishing)

Julie Koh Portable Curiosities (UQP)

Fiona McFarlane The High Places (Penguin Random House)


State Library of Queensland Poetry Collection – Judith Wright Calanthe Award

– Prize $10,000

Joel Deane Year of the Wasp (Hunter Publishers)

Liam Ferney Content (Hunter Publishers)

Sarah Holland-Batt The Hazards (UQP)

David Musgrave Anatomy of Voice (GloriaSMH Press)

Chloe Wilson Not Fox Nor Axe (Hunter Publishers)


Queensland Premier’s Young Publishers and Writers Awards

– Two $10,000 awards plus career development support

Emily Craven

Sam George-Allen

Anna Jacobson

Michelle Law

Andrew McMillen


Unpublished Indigenous Writer – David Unaipon Award

– Prize $10,000 plus manuscript development and publication with The University of Queensland Press.

Runner up: At the judges’ discretion, up to three writing development mentorships will be awarded to the shortlisted entrants in this category.

Paul Collis Dancing Home

B.A. Quakawoot The Song of Jessica Perkins

Yvonne Weldon 67 Days


Emerging Queensland Wrier – Manuscript Award

– Prize $10,000 plus manuscript development and publication with The University of Queensland Press.

Runner up: At the judges’ discretion, up to three mentorships will be offered to shortlisted entrants in this category.

H.E. Crampton for The Boatman

Laura Elvery for The Elements


There is also a People’s Choice Award or the Queensland Book of the Year (a public voting mechanism – I won’t comment on my thoughts about those types of awards, considering the judges have already narrowed the list down for people to vote),  Prize $10,000

Nadia Buick and Madeleine King – Remotely fashionable: A Story of Subtropical Style

Matt Condon – All Fall Down

Trent Jamieson – Day Boy

Susan Johnson – The Landing

Mary-Rose MacColl – Swimming Home

Cass Moriarty – The Promise Seed

Elspeth Muir – Wasted: A Story of Alcohol, Grief and Death

Cory Taylor  – Dying: A Memoir


Unfortunately I won’t be getting to the full poetry shortlist from the Queensland Literary Awards as my growing pile of unread books is becoming something of a nightmare (even to store), if a work other than Sarah Holland-Batt’s “The Hazards” wins I will do my best to get to that work and review it here (Sarah Holland-Batt’s is the only work on the shortlist I have read and reviewed already, and although I haven’t even sighted the other collections, this would be a very worthy winner of the poetry award, as I said in my review back in July “A very rich collection, like the hummus in the forest at the feet of all the trees that appear, this is rich in styles, language, imagery and experience.”


I do have a few books I have read and written extensive notes on so I would like to review them here in the coming weeks, depends on how to find some time!!!





The Hazards – Sarah Holland-Batt – 2016 WA Premier’s Literary Award (Poetry)

Onto the last of the shortlist for the 2016 Western Australian Premier’s Literary Awards for poetry and the University of Queensland Press’ “The Hazards” by Sarah Holland-Batt.
Sarah Holland-Batt is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the Queensland University of Technology and her first collection “Aria” (UQP, 2008), won a number of literary awards, including the Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize, the artsACT Judith Wright Prize, and the FAW Anne Elder Award, and was shortlisted for the New South Wales Premier’s Kenneth Slessor Prize and the Queensland Premier’s Judith Wright Calanthe Award. However as I’ve pointed out in the comments for another post, prior awards and recognition mean nothing when it comes to reading and assessing a writer’s latest works, let’s hope judges aren’t swayed by “form”.
This collection is made up of fifty-five poems broken into four sections, a rich collection using descriptive and lyric language touching on the themes of decay, violence and death. Poems that are so earthy you feel you are down in the steaming mulch on a humid day, looking above to the ferns.
Through observations of art, more specifically paintings, and frequently using an ekphrastic style (as self-described in the “notes”; an ‘ekphrastic’ poem a vivid description of a scene or, more commonly, a work of art. Through the imaginative act of narrating and reflecting on the “action” of a painting or sculpture, the poet may amplify and expand its meaning. – Taken from the Poetry Foundation website.) Poems early in the collection reflecting upon British settlement, convicts, Aboriginals with spears, through to describing the landscape, the flora (less fauna) in the poem. In “An Illustrated History of Settlement” describing Emanuel Phillips Fox’s “The Landing of Captain Cook at Botany Bay, 1770” (1902), I personally had the image of this artwork coming immediately to mind and the painting was not referenced in the poem itself, as an iconic painting there was no need for the specific reference, the imagery so vivid, you knew the reference;
On a far headland, two black men
stand warily, one holding up
a toothpick spear
as if to puncture the clouds’ drapery.
The first section rooted in Australian themes, flora and histories. The poem “Desert Pea” bringing the expanse of the desert firmly to mind, simply through the construction, the spaces matching the endless horizons, the silence in between the lines, the splash of red from the flower and the massive night skies all brought home in a short revelation:
Desert Pea
Like the pursuit of fire
a wind stirs the rocks,
summons into hear
a kind of cardinal calm.
This is the violence
of distance.
No end, no horizon.
Only desert floor,
henges of red
and the absolute artifice of sky.
I cannot stand
the certain world:
rock grass and thistle,
animal thirst
invading my eye.
Give me the night, the stars
streaming past me
huge and soundless.
Give me the silence
of the mind.
The rich descriptive language often creating mind pictures and even sounds, for example a vulture becomes a “Shaman of transfiguration,/high priest of the day’s death march,/he is the afterlife of all things:/child, star, pig, the small circumscribed lives/ of the apes and fleas.” And when the vulture eats the flesh, a surgeons language is used, gristle, gizzards and scalpels “cut and claw”.
Section II of the collection are all poems in homage to animals, vulture, toucan, capuchin, macaw, eel, parrot, green ant, cat, possum, muttonbird, and crab. Section III visits art and great artists, travel through Europe. Another ekphrastic poem being “Reclining Nude” reflecting and illuminating the controversial painting by Lucien Freud “Benefits Supervisor Sleeping”, a painting that once held the record for the highest priced work of art by a living artist (purchased by Roman Abramovich for £17.2 million (US$33.6 million) in May 2008), it depicts the nude portrait of a Job Centre worker Sue Tilley, at the time of the painting she weighed 127 kilograms.
Section IV ends with reflections of a worldly style, places inhabited, love, partners, all must “have us in the end”, and America. A collection that although worldly, point out the “hazards” that exist in the everyday, animals that are endangered, environments that are disappearing, innocent times that no longer exist, failed loves…
We have so little time left. We should love. (from “Ensign”)
A very rich collection, like the hummus in the forest at the feet of all the trees that appear, this is rich in styles, language, imagery and experience. For mine the most assured and timeless collection of poems on the shortlist. A collection that will stand the test of time, personally a work I will be hoping takes out the main gong, although all works on the shortlist are fine works and any of them taking home the main prize would not surprise. Although “The Hazards” maybe my favourite I’m not going to get grumpy if any of the other four works win.


When I return to the blog, it will be Women In Translation Month, a month long celebration that I participate in each year, where the only books I will review will be in translation and written by a woman. I have every intention of staying firmly with the Spanish language for the whole month, with fourteen books sitting on my “to be read” pile written by women. My first review will come from Chile (yes I’m returning), stay tuned for a review of an experimental fiction work.

Radiance – Andy Kissane – 2016 WA Premier’s Literary Award (Poetry)

The Western Australian Premier’s Literary Award shortlist for Poetry for 2016 is:

Dougan, Lucy The Guardians Giramondo (2015)

Holland-Batt, Sarah The Hazards University of Queensland Press (2015)

Kissane, Andy Radiance Puncher & Wattmann (2014)

Maiden, Jennifer The Fox Petition Giramondo (2015)

Malouf, David Earth Hour University of Queensland Press (2014)

And today I look at the fourth collection from the list, Andy Kissane’s “Radiance”. Section I, opens with a Seamus Heaney epigraph, and then the poem “Flight” a lyric effort, warming you immediately to a connection to the natural world. We have the cold, (the bitter cold), breeze, sand dunes, grasses waving, migrating humpback whales, unnamed endangered species, simply close your eyes, take away your spatial connection and take flight. Yes lyric indeed. A number of the poems melancholy reflections on animals, with the regret of wild species in zoos making an appearance and then more worldly travels with child street vendors in Phnom Penh, children picking over garbage or suburban reflections, driving to an ice-skating rink, or crippled workers, or simply attempting to take a catch in cricket. The subject matter is varied.

Section II features eight poems, all using the three-line stanza format, whether 30 or 42 lines, all dedicated to other poets like Keats, Shelley, Thomas, Woolf and each poem containing a pervading theme of death.

But we them move immediately to poetry firmly rooted in the reality, section III, poems about poetry, the importance of poetry as a weapon, very much like the volume “Load Poems Like Guns: Women’s Poetry from Herat, Afghanistan”, edited and translated by Farzana Marie, a collection I reviewed earlier this year, with the following quote from the Foreword;

…poetry, with its symbolic language, is being explored and effectively used as a powerful means of protest against gender discrimination and injustice…

In “Radiance” we have the poem “Against Forgetting” subtitled “Poetry Reading Kabul, 1999”, this was the period under Taliban rule where reading, public performance of poetry was strictly controlled, if not banned.

…We arrive one after the other, aware of the danger, keen to keep our ears, our tongues. But we will not forget the line of Rūmī and Hāfez. We meet to read their poems, to breathe the air our ancestors breathed. The known and unknown mingle. How to describe this joy; this wonder that fills our minds, while our hearts break, yes, break open.

Moving through to the description of poets as “those/whose blood is thick and cold with unfulfilled ambition” in “The Bluetongue as an Answer/To the Anxiety of Reputation”.

The collection closes with the poet’s relationship being transferred from a woman to ‘the moon’. Opening with an epigram from Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer-Night’s Dream”; HIPPOLYTA: Well shone, Moon/Truly, the Moon shines with a good grace.

I remember the young poet who was heckled at a festival for suggesting we should save the environment, instead of wasting our time writing pastoral poems. You have to ask, what work is this poem doing, what use is it to anyone? –          From Moon Rocks

Closing with poetry that is very much rooted in the current age, realist creations, prose poems that read simply and are not cluttered in shape or form or rhythm.

At Lake Mungo we stay in an Eco Lodge that aims to harmonise with the environment, yet offers outback luxury. perfect for those who want to experience the natural world they’ve lost touch with, yet still enjoy the warmth of electric blankets, log fires and mulled wine. –          From Home Comforts

Very much a poet after my own heart, with lines like that.

A readable and enjoyable collection, yet another worthy inclusion on the Western Australian Premier’s Literary Awards Shortlist, which is turning out to be a very strong list this year.

Tomorrow I will be back with the final review from the shortlist, Sarah Holland-Batt’s “The Hazards”.

The Fox Petition – Jennifer Maiden – 2016 WA Premier’s Literary Award (Poetry)

With yesterday’s review of poet Brian Blanchfield’s essays “Proxies”, and the recent announcement of the Western Australian Premier’s Literary Awards shortlists, I noticed that I had already read and reviewed two of the five shortlisted titles, so why not tackle the remaining three and put forward my views on the strongest contender for the award. Of course my views are totally amateur, have no alignment to any judging criteria, they are more a case of what I enjoy reading. 
If you are at all interested in my thoughts of the two shortlisted titles I have already read and reviewed simply click the title to take you through to my thoughts. David Malouf’s “Earth Hour” also shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Literary Award in 2015,  and Lucy Dougan’s “The Guardians” which appeared on the 2016 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award shortlists. 
Over the next three days I will look at the remaining three shortlisted titles, first up is Jennifer Maiden’s “The Fox Petition”. The title itself a pointer to the content, with the fox (the introduced to Australia animal) being a refugee, an animal scored, hunted, despised, a bio-security nightmare. The collection opens with a petition (hence the title) to allow desexed vaccinated foxes as pets. In December 2014 the Minister for Primary Industries passed a Pest Control Order for red foxes, which meant the keeping of foxes in captivity illegal. Poetry linked to a political decision? If you think poetry and politics don’t mix then this is certainly not a collection for you.
The seventeen poems in the collection vary in length from a single page to sixteen pages and are highly politically charged. Straight from a fox petition to Penny Wong and Gillian Triggs featuring as a female duet. For non-Australian visitors, Senator Penny Wong is a the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (one of Australia’s two Federal Parliament’s) and Gillian Triggs is the Australian Human Rights Commissioner. In 2014 Gillian Triggs launched a “National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention”. At a Senate Estimate’s hearing Gillian Triggs revealed that she was offered a job as an inducement to leave her post and therefore not present her report on refugee children in detention.
A highly charged collection indeed, protest poetry, activist writing and it is very interesting to see this collection shortlisted for a “Premier’s Literary Award”. But this is not just a collection of politically motivated poems, the politics is mingled with the ‘pastoral’.
(Melissa Parkes’ parents had an apple farm in WA,
Julie Bishop’s a cherry farm in SA)
When she met the Christians Bishop had arrested
for protesting detention of refugees, Parke
wore a coat like apple blossom: pink,
white and green, translucently. Bishop
on the day the Bali two were transferred
to the death island wore a dress
the colour of cherry blossom, dark pink,
looked gaunt with anxiety. Politics
will pierce you with its empathy, if you
practise it successfully. Apple flowers
spread raggedly and openly, breeze
dapples through them. Cherry blossom
reblooms so densely, brilliantly, that we
plant temples to ensure its resurrection.
Again, for the uninitiated, Julie Bishop is Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, and the reference to the ‘Bali two’ is when she pleaded with the Indonesian Government to overturn a death sentence on two Australian citizens arrested and charged with drug trafficking, her appeals were unsuccessful and the two faced the death squad in April 2015. Melissa Parke was an opposition member who had previously raised concerns about the Government’s proposal to send asylum seeking children to Malaysia, she has subsequently retired from politics.
Very much like the Australian political landscape there are a number of poems that have long lines appearing to career out of control, but humour is includes with Sir Anthony (tony) Abbott and Queen Victoria appearing in discussions about the fortunes spent on technology for the eradication of South American fire ants, yet again an invader, a bio-security concern.
Eleanor Roosevelt and Hillary Clinton make an appearance having a conversation in “Hillary and Eleanor II ; Maintenance Is Power”
‘It wasn’t about Benghazi, but I did
fall in love with the Arab Spring. You know,
I was in Chicago in ’68, still half Republican
                                but has campaigned quietly
for Eugene MacCarthy – I looked older
that I do now, sort of chubby, with big
specs’ – she mimicked them with her fingers –
‘and lines under my eyes. I actually saw
beatings and a toilet thrown straight
from a hotel window in the riots. I thought
opposing the dictators in Syria or Libya
a pretty safe thing to do in terms of ethics,
more simple than Iraq. I may have lost
sight of the complications after, not been
cautious enough in saving staff. I was shocked
when they tossed the Ambassador’s body
around as dead as smoke: maybe they
were trying to revive him, as they said?’
Even Rupert Murdoch and Fox News (the “fox” again) make an appearance, as does Charles James Fox, Leader of His Majesty’s Opposition, an anti-slave, French Revolution supporter.

The theme of the ‘fox’ runs throughout the collection, in various forms, with the prominent theme being Australia’s stance on refugee treatment. For left leaning fans of activist and protest poetry this would be your tipple of choice, overseas readers, right side of politics leaning readers would probably find it either incomprehensible or offensive. But then again how many right leaning readers of poetry are there? Simply given the political theme I think the chances of this taking out an award that is named after the WA Premier, who is currently Colin Barnett, a Liberal leader, who seems to think killing endangered species (great white sharks) wins votes, and who has just recently said WA doesn’t need any enquiries into youth detention, is closing down remote indigenous communities has repealed progressive cannabis laws, and raised the age of consent for homosexual acts (against the advice of Amnesty International, the World Health Organisation and the Australian Medical Association). Then again, the judges may make a statement!

The Guardians – Lucy Dougan – Victorian Premier’s Literary Award (Poetry) 2016 – WA Premier’s Literary Award (Poetry) 2016

Tomorrow night sees the winners of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, a very handy $25,000 for each category, Fiction, Non-Fiction, Drama, Poetry and Young Adult writing with a bonus $100,000 available for the winners of each category as they go on to contest the Victorian Prize for Literature. I’ve personally cast my vote in the “People’s Choice Award” with the winner getting a bonus $2,000 – for local writers this prize pool is a great incentive.

The third, and final one, I read from the poetry collection on the shortlist is “The Guardians” by Lucy Dougan. Another free verse collection on the shortlist, something very different from the Prime Minister’s Literary Award shortlist, where rhyme came to the fore in a number of collections.
From the opening poem we can see the theme of “memory”, will that pervade throughout. “The Mask” is about childhood and an old trunk taken from a room below the bedroom, it contains a linen mask, probably made by her great grandmother, all of this taking place in a home that no longer exists. The further you dig, the deeper the memory, the further you find the roots of the family tree, whether the home construction exists any longer there is still the bond of family, of memory.
Atavism crops up here as it did in the title of the short story collection I recently reviewed by Raymond Bock http://messybooker.blogspot.com.au/2015/11/atavisms-raymond-bock-translated-by.htmlthe theme of reverting back to the ancestral type, a throwback, is our poet here feline as she shares a meal with her cat?
Along with memory the natural world is another theme throughout, with humanity having its back turned on the wonders all around us. The poem “The Mice” is about the wild stretch of “land by the river” where her pet mice were released to fend for themselves, a place full of childhood memories, a place largely ignored by everybody else.
Inanimate objects and the memories they evoke is also a recurring theme, to an outsider objects such as shoes are simply shoes, to the poet they are memories of a graveyard, sunlight, reading, or swapping a book for a pair of shoes. This brought back to myself the exhibition at the Melbourne Fringe Festival, “The Hidden History of Things” by Amelia Ducker and Fiorella Cordella, where a glass display cabinet in a bric-a-brac bazaar was displayed with items all on offer to a new owner. Each item had a story attached, for example the books came from a house where the artist used to holiday with friends, once the house was repossessed the items all had to go somewhere else – a book to me, a history to the artist. There was a necklace from her husband, a pressed flower from a book, a hat that was given as a gift but didn’t fit. The realisation that the everyday has a history.
The Forge
The women in these suburbs
flirt with the man who cuts keys, fixes heels.
They can’t help being won over
by the light that glowers at his shop-front.
Too sure of himself by half
my mother would say.
He dyes his hard unflatteringly dark.
Once I took him shoes,
a second-hand pair.
God, love, he asked,
what have you been doing in these?
I laugh at the histories I could invent
for these strangers – sleep-walking, bacchic dance.
I laugh and say nothing
as he hands me the little green slip.
But I don’t go back for a long, long time
(life more ruptured than the wreck
of shoes I handed him, impossible to unlock).
Where have you been darl?
(if I could click my heels).
It’s a story I cannot tell –
what kept me from redeeming
something fixed.
At night the women in these suburbs
unlock their doors
with keys fashioned
by the man at the kiosk.
They kick off their shoes
shiny and re-heeled.
They smile without quite knowing
how the man with the dark, dark hair
has eased his way into their smallest secret places,
snug in the palm, firm at the ankle.
And I chide myself gently
for not telling him the story of the book
I swapped for shoes
or why I had been away so long.
Section 2 moves to England with the recurring image of foxes, a visit to the “Tate Modern” where art has been reduced to merchandise and “Keep Calm” magnets and a musing on “Kenwood House”, the memory of the Jacobeans, of Donne and Shakespeare, or their wives, of Coleridge and apothecaries.
The poem “The Ties My Sister Makes”, again, focuses on the inanimate, men’s silk neckties coming to the fore;
My sister’s ties
will be dispatched about the world,
their underwater silvers and greens
flashing in the dark aquariums of shop windows.
We return, very much, to Australia with the poem “Fritz” with the memory of awaking in a campsite with the smell of wood smoke and a view of the wallabies.
Section 3 opens with a series of poems reflecting on failing health, chemotherapy, radiology and lumps, but this is no wallowing in self-pity, it is a celebration of life.
More of a celebration of life that Peter Rose’s collection “The Subject of Feeling”, more melancholy than Alan Loney’s “Crankhandle”, a very assured and enjoyable collection celebrating our surroundings, the majesty in being alive, the memory of the inanimate, a collection to be revisited time and time again, these are poems to muse over.
A nice sister piece to the 2015 Stella Prize Winner, Emily Bitto’s “The Strays” as the themes of motherhood, being female, sister’s bonds, the protection (a hug) from a male lover, and craft-work all to the fore.

Overall a very enjoyable shortlist from the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award with each of the poetry collections being worthy of first prize, personally I rank them “Crankhandle”, then “The Guardians” and finally “The Subject of Feeling” although to see any win would not surprise me and that is not your usual shortlist reading, with generally one or two works falling short of expectations, not here, all poetry collections worthwhile adding to your collections.

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Earth Hour – David Malouf – Prime Minister’s Literary Award (Poetry) 2015 – WA Premier’s Literary Award (Poetry) 2016

The Neustadt International Prize for Literature is a biennial award sponsored by the University of Oklahoma and World Literature Today.
The Prize consists of $50,000, a replica of an eagle feather cast in silver, and a certificate. A generous endowment from the Neustadt family of Ardmore, Oklahoma, and Dallas, Texas, ensures the award in perpetuity.
The prize was established in 1969 as the Books Abroad International Prize for Literature, then renamed the Books Abroad / Neustadt Prize before assuming its present name in 1976, The Neustadt International Prize for Literature. It is the first international literary award of this scope to originate in the United States and is one of the very few international prizes for which poets, novelists, and playwrights are equally eligible.
Previous Laureates of the Neustadt International Prize for Literature include Gabriel García Márquez, Octavio Paz, Rohinton Mistry and in 2000 David Malouf became the sixteenth Neustadt Laureat. This year the winner was Dubravka Ugrešić, born in the former Yugoslavia and now residing in Amsterdam, I aim to get to a few of her works in 2016, once I read and digest the wonderful “Music & Literature No. 6” where there are 100 pages of literary criticism, “A Story about How Stories Come to Be Written” (translated by David Willliams), seven prints by Dubravka Ugrešić and a listing of her complete works. This “Music & Literature” edition also includes Alejandra Pizarnik and Victoria Polevá, an edition I’ll eventually get around to reading.
In becoming the sixteenth Neustadt Laureat David Malouf beat a field including V.S. Naipaul, Augusto Monterroso, and N. Scott Momaday. Previously shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1993 for “Remembering Babylon” where nominating juror Ihab Hassan said “And right there I saw a glimmer of his gift: wakefulness and precision of feeling, blended in wonder, and a delicacy that can surprise the mystery of creation itself. It was this elusive quality, inward with his poetic sensibility, a quality akin to love, that first drew me to the work of David Malouf” (“Encomium: David Malouf,” World Literature Today Vol. 74, Autumn 2000). He has wont eh Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the French Priz Femina Etranger for his 1990 work “The Great World” and would be also known for his novels “An Imaginary Life” (1978), “Fly Away Peter” (1982), and “Ransom” (2009). Lesser known, or less publicized works include his poetry collections, “Neighbors in a Thicket” (1974), “Wild Lemons” (1980), and “Typewriter Music” (2007).
It is his latest poetry collection that I look at today, shortlisted for the 2015 Prime Minister’s Literary Award for poetry, “Earth Hour”.
Our collection opens with ‘Aquarius’, the constellation not the astrology sign I assume, “There is more to darkness than nightfall”, setting the tone for a journey through the realms, through the soil, human memory and our environment.
‘Retrospect’, tells of a memory of a walk in winter into Sèvres, a dream that comes from a simple expression on a companion’s face when walking into the forest. ‘Tocatta’ addresses bric-a-brac and the significance of seemingly insignificant objects on human memory, “and even the domino I lost/in the long grass by the passion-vine”.
Throughout we have musical references and themes, there is something grander going on here, if only I could decipher it!! We have innumerable references to green (grass generally), the image of ‘breaths from mouths’ and galaxies.
‘Footloose, a Senior Moment’ is composed as fractured thoughts, spread throughout the page, replicating an ageing mind, with another musical reference “diminuendo”, (getting gradually softer) a poem dedicated to ‘Chris Wallace-Crabbe approaching eighty’.
Whistling in the Dark
Seeking a mind in the machine, and in constellations, however
distant, a waft of breath. Re-reading space
shrapnel as chromosome bee-swarms, hauling infinity
in so that its silence, a stately contre-dance to numbers,
hums, and flashy glow-stones bare of wild-flower
or shrub, scent, bird-song, hoof-print, heartbeat,
or bones (ah, bones!) are no longer alien or lonely
out there in the airless cold as we prepare
to lie out beneath them. Even as children we know
what cold is, and aloneness, absence of touch. We seed
the night sky with stories like our own: snub-breasted
blond topless Lolitas laying out samples
of their charms besides dimpled ponds, barefoot un-bearded
striplings ready with bow and badinage, pursued
and lost and grieved over by inconsolable immortals
and set eternally adrift, a slow cascade
of luminary dust above the earth, with the companionable
creatures, bear, lion, swan, who share with us the upland
fells and meadow-flats of a rogue planet tossed
into space and by the wild haphazard or amazing
grace sent spinning. Old consolations, only half
believed in, though like children we hold them dear, as if
                their names
on our tongue could bring them close and make,
like theirs, the bitter sweet-stuff of our story
to someone, somewhere out there,
remembered, and fondly, when we are gone.
Our collection has a very environmental edge, showing the hypocrisy of working all day in a garden to “troop home to pork-chop plastic bags, and gatherers/gather for hugs and mugs of steaming chai.” (from the poem ‘Inner City’), or “Small plots are watered in the shadow/of blackened chimney-stacks by men in shirtsleeves between shift” (from ‘A Green Miscellany’). Our feigning interest in environmental issues when we live luxury lives in suburban homes, consume and destroy.
We also have an homage to the Australian artist Jeffrey Smart (1921-2013) in ‘Art Laterina’, set in Tuscany where Smart lived from 1963 until his death.
A collection that includes exquisite imagery as in ‘Shy Gifts’, “…the book/laid open under the desk-lamp, pages astream/with light like angels’ wings, arched for take off”. This is a small book, running to eighty-six pages and fifty-nine poems, with references to writing retreats and acknowledgement of the “Scottish Arts Council for the Muriel Spark International Fellowship in 2008, and a month-long residence in Edinburgh and at Stromness, Orkney”, it is not difficult to see the creativity being assisted by Malouf’s surrounds.

Not my favourite from the Prime Minister’s Literary Award Shortlist (Poetry) to date, that currently goes to Judith Beverdige’s “Devadatta’s Poems”,  and with only the winning entry yet to be read, this has been an insightful journey into the works of Australian poets, something I will be doing more of during the year.

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