The 2009 Overland Judith Wright Poetry Prize – judging the winners

The 2009 Overland Judith Wright Poetry Prize for New and Emerging Poets saw a staggering 925 entries. Keri Glastonbury, Overland’s poetry editor and judge, discusses in her report what she admired in the winning entries and touches upon notions of the academicisation of poetry and the state of the emerging poetry scene:

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The winner of the 2009 Overland Judith Wright Poetry Prize for New and Emerging Poets is Derek Motion for his poem ‘forest hill’. It is somewhat similar in style and theme to last year’s winning poem, ‘emoticon’ by Tim Wright, in that it deals with fractured personal archaeologies. In ‘forest hill’ the poet goes back to his primary school:

& it’s obvious. i’m unearthing the school’s time-capsule, secretly, after nightfall.
the balaclava didn’t even involve a choice. i edit scathingly. i mock the other raaf kids’ dreams. i make a claggy pulp out of their failed foundation cursive. at the bubblers i
consider sobbing for their facebook realities, but instead do this. i prance
through the half-formed stimulus buildings like non-threatening catacombs. biggles-like.

Although all entries are judged anonymously, I had a strong inkling that ‘forest hill’ was written by Derek, whom I first met in 2005 at a launch of 4W, the magazine of the Wagga Wagga Writers Writers. Like Derek, I grew up in Wagga and therefore made an association with the tiny Forest Hill public school on the outskirts of town. I’m also familiar with Derek’s poetry from his blog Typing Space. Derek still lives in Wagga, and last I saw him he was floating down the Murrumbidgee River with his partner and kids in inflatable tyres. Yet, in many ways, Derek refuses to become a ‘poster-boy’ for regional poetics (‘& no one lives anywhere anymore’) and his work is a rethinking of place and identity in an era mediated by the internet.

The runner-up for this year is Duncan Hose, for his poems ‘SOUTHWEST’ and ‘lyrebird’. Duncan’s poetry also played right into my subliminal sensibilities, with ‘SOUTHWEST’ perhaps making an overt reference to Frank O’Hara’s ‘Why I am not a painter’. With Duncan’s poems, I had no clue as to the author, but it was obvious that the poet had a certain literacy in poetics and was not afraid to invoke mimesis (as is only fitting for a ‘lyrebird’). While one poem is decidedly American in its references, the other questions the more local mytho-poetic of Ned Kelly.

Read the rest of Keri’s report.

We’ve also published online Derek Motion’s winning entry, ‘forest hill’, and the two runners-up, ‘SOUTHWEST’ and ‘lyrebird’, both by Duncan Hose.


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