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One of the side effects of last year's, Year of Poetry was that I became aware of the sheer volume of good poetry written in just our little corner of the world.
You could take this shortlist as a fine, though obviously not exhaustive, sampling.
The judges comments are sourced from the State Library of NSW webpage here.
The prize offers the winner $30,000 in prize money (which is possibly a lifetime's earnings for poets - the average writing earnings in Australia being around the $10k mark).
As we always say though its an honor just to be included on the list.
and for once I actually have one of the books on the shortlist. Usually I am chasing my tail, such is the volume of poetry- if you recall, I spent somewhere in the vicinity of $500 on new works last year.
I have Ellen Van Neervan's Comfort Food sitting in my TBR pile. The judges have said:
[Van Neervan] offers a fresh poetic voice, with images that reach (to borrow Wallace Stevens’ phrase) not for ‘ideas about the thing’, but for ‘the thing itself’. Readers are invited into her world: one that has a history and tradition stretching back for millennia, and where food becomes both an actuality and a metaphor for home and family, and the comfort promised by the collection’s title. [Read more here.]It's great to see a first collection on this sort of list standing shoulder to shoulder with John Kinsella and his 24th book, Firebreaks. The judges note that:
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[Firebreaks] confirms his reputation as one of the most significant Australian poets of his generation. is a return to the relaxed, well-paced observations of books such as Full Fathom Five and Eschatologies. [Read more comments here]What is strange is that I don't recall hearing of this book last year, which considering my poetry focus in 2016 is astonishing.
Likewise I hadn't heard of Antigone Kefala, whose Fragments is also shortlisted. Kefala is described as an elder of Australian poetry and Fragments is her first poetry collection since the late nineties. I can't help but think we don't do as good a job of remembering, rejoicing in poets of all demographies and genders (particularly women) but perhaps it's just ignorance on my part.
The judges have said of Fragments that:
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Which is a bit wordy and fru fru but does make me think I might like it, considering my penchant for nostalgia or poetry as a recollective creative exercise.
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Ghostspeaking itself sounds interesting and very meta-poetic being a a compilation of poems,biographies and letters from 11 fictional poets.
Personally I find it hard enough trying to find my own voice let alone create 11 others.
It's not easy to excise a comment from the judges report so I will direct you to the whole thing here.
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The judges have said:
These poems are attended by a deep sense of what language can achieve when it is imagistic, investigative and precise, and of what is possible when a poet has full control of their craft. [Read more].I just have to wait until Booktopia has free shipping and this is definitely one I'll get.
One of her talents is in evoking a sense of place and its good to see the judges applaud this:
Jill Jones has a fine touch with representations of place and sensation: bringing to life scents and images, and the way the body bumps up against the world. Her signature pared-back lyricism is an ideal form in which to show the unexpected or barely-understood disturbances that thread through the everyday experience. She breaks (open) the days, rendering both the quotidian and the uncanny. [Read On]
Breaking the Days doesn't seem to have made it onto Booktopia yet, but the publisher is Whitmore Press and you should be able to get it through your local bookstore or buy it direct.
Get yourself over to the NSW State Library Page to read more about the award and past winners.
Read more on Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry | State Library of NSW: