Winners of the 2012 Overland Judith Wright Poetry Prize

We received more than 400 entries for the 2012 Overland Judith Wright Poetry Prize for New and Emerging Poets. Overland poetry editor Peter Minter judged the competition blind, and was happy to discover many new voices among the submitted works.

Overland is pleased to announce the winning and commended poems for the 2012 Prize:


Winner: ‘Augury?’

Augury?’ depicts a walk on the island of Samothrace (Samothraki) in Greece and the fortuitous intersection of the flight of birds and the speaker’s wanderings, while concurrently exploring relations between the ancient and modern, humanity and the natural world, society and the prospects of poetry.

Luke Fischer’s poems have appeared in Antipodes, Cordite, ISLE, Mascara, Meanjin, Snorkel, and Newcastle Poetry Prize Anthology. He has held academic positions in the US and Germany, and in 2008 received a PhD in philosophy from the University of Sydney. He is currently completing his first collection of poems.

Second Prize: ‘The Owl of Lascaux’

I wrote ‘The owl of Lascaux’ after attending a seminar on the Italian philosopher, Giorgio Agamben, during which one of the speakers remarked on the drawing in the famous French cave as constituting the first known representation of a figure facing front-on. This naturally led to a memory of swimming in the idyllic turquoise waters off the island of Phi Phi whilst being relentlessly bitten by sea lice.

Fiona Hile’s poems have been published in The Age, Overland, Shearsman, Cordite, Rabbit, Steamer and elsewhere. Her long poem, ‘Bush Poem with Subtitles’, was awarded equal first place in the 2012 Gwen Harwood Poetry Prize. She is completing a PhD at the University of Melbourne, where she also tutors in Literary Studies and Creative Writing. Her first full-length collection of poetry will be published by Hunter later this year.


Third prize: ‘The Watchmaker’s Wrath’

The watchmaker’s wrath’ was formed around a collection of memories from my youth, woven into a somewhat disjointed narrative about intricate and very private dynamic of a family coming to grips with loss. Semi-autobiographical and dedicated to my brother.

Myles Gough is a journalist who lives in Sydney, and an aspiring creative writer – if only there were more hours in the day.


Commended: ‘the ether comes’

‘the ether comes’ is a journey of nature and reality, of facing the idea of stasis through a sublimation of entropy itself.

Dusk Dundler studied under poet Martin Harrison at UTS in 2010. He has produced documentaries for the ABC’s Radio National, reported for the Koori Mail, and published in Independent Filmmaker Magazine. He fulfilled a mentorship with Top End writer Andrew McMillan and is soon to be published in The Prague Revue.


Commended: ‘the report’

‘the report’ grew out of a series of reflections upon the lyric ‘I’ following the attacks upon it by certain avant-garde movements, as it struck me that its critics tended to overlook some of its most important aspects.

Marty Hiatt is a Melbourne poet. His work has appeared in Steamer, Rabbit, Overland, foam:e, Cordite, otoliths, fourW, and Upstairs at Duroc. In 2012 he published a chapbook, Rook’s Lair on a Lever.


Commended: ‘A Stitch Up’

‘A Stitch Up’ was written during a brief stay in Melbourne, during a slightly longer stay in Australia, and is diffused between multiple locations, images and impulses; attempting to make and break these connections simultaneously.

Joel Scott is a Sydney-born poet now living in Berlin, completing a PhD which posits translation as a kind of radical contemporary writing practice. His poetry and critical work has been published in print and online, here and there.


Commended: ‘Back fence lost

Back fence lost’ describes the complexity of ecological interactions found in the embodied poetry of a suburban back fence.

Gareth Thomas is originally from Cronulla, but now lives between the Central Ranges and Northern NSW with his partner and young children. He identifies as both poet and visual artist enjoying the hybrid forms that emerge in his practice. Gareth holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Writing and Visual Art from Southern Cross University.


Commended: ‘Monarch of the Good’

‘Monarch of the Good’ visits heresy, intoxication and godliness to mock the essential and enjoy itself.

Commended: ‘The Tar Fires’

‘The Tar Fires’ observes random flares in thought and speculates on the possibility of a bonfire.

Corey Wakeling lives in Melbourne. He regularly publishes poetry in Australia and abroad, and his first full-length collection Goad Omen will be published by Giramondo in March 2013. He is reviews editor of Rabbit and interviews editor of Cordite. Corey tutors in Literature and Theatre Studies at the University of Melbourne.

(Note: Corey Wakeling has two poems in this year’s shortlist.)

Malcolm Robertson Foundation logo The Overland Judith Wright Poetry Prize for New and Emerging Poets is made possible by the support of the Malcolm Robertson Foundation.

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

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  1. Ha, it’s good the reading process was ‘blind’, cos you could start getting a little worried about the Sydney-Melbourne-PhD-ish element…which struck me as much as Fiona being the only woman on the shortlist.

    How ‘blind’ these things are is another matter altogether, because a couple of the folk on the shortlist are pretty distinctive stylistically.

    Regardless of all that, congats to all, and to Peter Minter and Overland for running this prize…

    Looking forward to reading the poems…

  2. Blah, blah, blah! The usual hypocrisy abounds!
    When one or two men questioned the fact that women dominated the results of the earlier short story competition, they were pounced upon. Yet when considerations like the fact that more women submitted entries than men or the fact that the quality of short fiction entered by women was generally better than that entered by men, was explained and taken into account, the consequent results were justified.
    Yet here we have a short list dominated by men. Consequently, the usual middle class ‘victim’ feminism comes to the fore. This is as tedious as it is troubling. Accusations of bias and implications of sexism are hinted at. It is just too much to consider possibilities that more men entered the competition than woman. Or consider other possibilities like trusting the judge of the competition. It’s easier to make quick judgments and point fingers. As I said in a previous post, when did middle class bleating become the core of radical politics.
    Dennis, I am curious about your questioning of the name of the competition. What do you mean?
    I suggest we all try for more nuanced and complex political analysis.

    1. I don’t know the history so I was wondering aloud if the name meant anything to the competition: was that name attached simply for the sake of giving it a name, to give it prestige, to recognise a particular type or style of poetry, or whatever? I think too the integrity of the judge and judging needs respecting.

  3. Thank you, Dennis. I agree with your last statement that ‘the integrity of the judge and judging needs respecting’. Obviously some of the above postees don’t respect the person or the process. I’d like to see them commit to hundreds of (presumably) unpaid work, organising and judging a well-known competition.
    As the saying goes, evil is sooner believed than good

  4. The judge’s selections are totally valid, as a qualitative judgement based on personal preferences and academic experience/exposure…no-one has suggested otherwise. But Dennis, your comments are truly baffling. The reason people were baffled by the short story short-list was because of how absolutely out of the ordinary it was – where did all these great women writers come from, since it’s not like many of them are being published…this MUST have been stacked, that’s the ONLY POSSIBLE explanation… for a literary prize shortlist this one is rather ‘same old’. Because of the gender balance, whiteness and also seemingly the poem subject matters… That’s what people are commenting on this time…nobody has said the selections aren’t valid…they are probably great poems…so stop using ‘angry irrational feminism’ to ward off all criticism it’s so fricken tony abbott.

  5. agreed, Maxine. Peter, just to clarify there are no surprises, as in:
    judged again by white-male-academic
    that’s why i didn’t enter. I pocketed the entry fee and played tatslotto instead since I’m a wog single mum that doesn’t have a “literary academic voice”.

  6. There seems to be a few pretty well established poets here for an award entitled ‘New and Emerging’.

    Not questioning the quality of the selection at all. There are some very fine writers here. But, as identified by Maxine and Koraly, there does seem to be a certain homogeneity evident in the final selection. One would think that such a prize would be looking for more ‘new’ voices, engaged with more than the judge’s academic and eco-poetic interests.

    1. He certainly has aboriginal heritage – hence his extensive work in the fields of Aboriginal literature and poetics….

  7. I do not want to take a swipe at judging, I’m sure each piece was very deserving of the accolade. That being said, I think a valid point has been raised. This competition was for new and emerging poets and the shortlist is full of quite wonderful and to a degree, accomplished writers. Perhaps in future the competition could be divided into “Published” and “Unpublished” authors? Or an entirely new competition for those of us who love to write but are not formally educated or already successful in the field. I’d like to believe that appealing to a wider cross-section of writers will achieve an effective promotion of the artform. It’s terrible to read that a lady felt she wasn’t worthy of entering – I’m sure education helps, but the absence of such shouldn’t preclude creative expression or insight. I’d like to say that I do admire the “academics” who have chosen to really hone their art with education, it takes hard work and isn’t always a sign of selfish entitlement!! But the ones who have since been published don’t fit the criteria of new or emerging in my opinion. Sour grapes? Of course a little, I wanted to win and become famous and be mentored by the best. But at the end of the day I’ll keep writing and entering these competitions, hopefully one day it will be on an even playing field!

  8. hey, Judge

    ether comes (5/1)

    as augury (5/1)

    & the watchmaker

    ‘s wrath (11/2)

    the report (3/1)

    of noisy

    f-owls of Lascaux (4/6)

    ‘A Stitch Up’ (9/2), she says

    watch your back fence

    Lost? (6/4)

    a monarch for good (even money)

    tar fires (2/1)

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