For the first time in its history, the Overland Judith Wright Poetry Prize has resulted in a tie; as such, the prize money for this year’s first and second place will be combined, and split evenly between the two poems that have placed equal first.
We are pleased to announce that ‘MANY GIRLS WHITE LINEN’ by Alison Whittaker and ‘OK cupid’ by Holly Isemonger are the joint winning poems of the 2016 Overland Judith Wright Poetry Prize for New and Emerging Poets.
Third place has been awarded to Lachlan Brown’s ‘Self-division: little song selections’.
The judges, Overland poetry editor Toby Fitch and poet Jill Jones, write:
All of the shortlisted poems this year were of a high standard, conceptually, stylistically and aesthetically. They worked with an exciting variety of ideas, themes, forms and discourses. They continually engaged us, and made us go back to them again and again to uncover more within their meanings and structures and also to interrogate those structures and ideas, line by line.
Each of the poems on the final shortlist had its particular vitality, its seductions, its pull, its hook. We continued to challenge each other about which ones particularly stood out and our lists kept changing. Some poems took weeks to emerge from the group. Others faded. In the end we were forced to acknowledge that we were not going to be able to decide on a single winner, that in fairness to our process we had two winners, and a number of other terrific poems as well.
Each of the winning poems has a considerable political and critical edge and the poets have clearly pushed their respective forms into surprising, even original, new shapes that seem necessary and important for poems written in and of Australia, 2016–17. We congratulate them for the strong and challenging work they have made and for the way they engaged us in this tough process of choosing, and for giving us the many pleasures of poetry during that process.
You can read the detailed judges’ report, along with ‘MANY GIRLS WHITE LINEN’, ‘OK cupid’ and ‘Self-division: little song selections’ in Overland 226, which will be out in mid March.
‘MANY GIRLS WHITE LINEN’ is about many girls and their many white linen slavers.
Alison Whittaker is a Gomeroi poet and law graduate living on Wangal lands. She is the author of the award-winning collection Lemons in the Chicken Wire (Magabala Books, 2016).
The poem is composed from three stanzas, the words from each stanza are rearranged to form new stanzas.
Holly Isemonger lives in Sydney. She has been published in Shabby Doll House, Voiceworks, Clinic, and Seizure. Her writing has been featured in exhibitions for SPUR Publication at Embassy Gallery, Edinburgh and Tate Britain. She is assistant editor at The Bohemyth and studies at Western Sydney University.
‘Self-division: little song selections’ is a series of prime-numbered tracks about failure (sonnets: roughly Elizabethan or Italian, vox turned up a bit), taking in vistas from Western Sydney and images from Ern Malley’s poetry.
Lachlan Brown grew up in Macquarie Fields, South West Sydney. He currently teaches literature at Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga. Lachlan’s poems have been shortlisted for the Newcastle Poetry Prize, highly commended for the Gwen Harwood poetry prize and longlisted for the Canberra Poetry Prize.