AustLit logo
Mary Gilmore Award for a First Book of Poetry
Subcategory of ASAL Awards
The material on this page is available to AustLit subscribers. If you are a subscriber or are from a subscribing organisation, please log in to gain full access. To explore options for subscribing to this unique teaching, research, and publishing resource for Australian culture and storytelling, please contact us or find out more.


  • To be given for the best first book of poetry published in the previous two calendar years (until 1999 for the best first book of poetry published in the previous calendar year).

Latest Winners / Recipients

Year: 2021

winner y separately published work icon Breathing Plural Em König , Melbourne : Cordite Press , 2020 19662628 2020 selected work poetry

'As I write this, fires are burning out of control on Kangaroo Island and all along the east coast of Australia. Lives, homes, half a billion animals: gone. As I write this, I am awaiting a blood sunset, the kind that filters the land through a lens of pink, helping everything to complement the colour of my acrylic nails. As I write this, citizens of the USA (and the world) are holding their collective breath awaiting retaliation from the Iranian army in response to the assassination of Qasem Soleimani. As I write this, I can tell the three avocados in the fruit bowl beside me will all ripen tomorrow morning. As I write this, I am wondering if I can afford to renew my gym membership and what will happen to my body if I don’t.

'As I write this, I question the necessity of a poem – written on and with and for atoms, spoken through waves – combustible, ephemeral, biodegradable. Each poem in this book exists in two forms, both inhabiting a unique state of decay or decomposition (perhaps re-composition?). How you choose to engage is entirely up to you. Read this book back to front, front to back, upside down, right way round. Start at the beginning, in the middle; breathe it in one word at a time. Use it as a doorstop, as Tinder, as rolling paper – but read it first if only to revel in its potential/futility.

'–Em König'

(Source: publisher's blurb)

Year: 2020

winner y separately published work icon Carte Blanche Thom Sullivan , Sydney : Vagabond Press , 2019 14815995 2019 selected work poetry

'Thom Sullivan’s debut collection of poems, Carte Blanche, traverses the exactitudes of place and time – from a distinctively Australian suburbia, to farming landscapes in South Australia’s Mount Lofty Ranges, to Australia’s renowned Great Ocean Road, and the interior terrains of consciousness and perception. The poems are memorable, succinct in their expression, precise in their effect, and notable for their innovative use of syntax and punctuation. Carte Blanche is a collection of poems that’s finely realised and keenly felt.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

Year: 2019

winner y separately published work icon That Sight Marjon Mossammaparast , Melbourne : Cordite Press , 2018 14214767 2018 selected work poetry

Year: 2018

winner y separately published work icon Rallying Quinn Eades , Crawley : UWA Publishing , 2017 10716577 2017 selected work poetry

'Rallying was written alongside Quinn Eades’s first book, all the beginnings: a queer autobiography of the body, and before he began transitioning from female to male. A collection very much concerned with the body, and the ways in which we create and write under, around, without, and with children, this collection will resonate deeply with anyone who has tried to make creative work from underneath the weight of love. This is a collection of poems that are more than poems. They were written with children, under babies, around grief, amongst crumbs, on trains, with hope: with love. This is a book made of steel and honey, muscle and sun, with tongues. Open its pages and you will find more than poetry. You will find moments in time strung across by text, a poetics of the space between bodies, the way that language makes us separate and simultaneously whole.' (Publication summary)

Year: 2017

winner y separately published work icon False Nostalgia Aden Rolfe , Artarmon : Giramondo Publishing , 2016 9313458 2016 selected work poetry

'False Nostalgia is rare among poetry collections, a work which is both lyrical and philosophical. It explores the way memory works, and the role memory plays in our sense of identity, and what we take to be the significant moments in our lives – the relationship between what we remember and the stories we tell about ourselves. Through stand-alone poems, exploratory poetic sequences, and essays which read like extended prose poems, Rolfe considers the complex connections between experience and recollection, the drive to document the moment, the fear of forgetting, the power of nostalgia, and the creative unreliability of memory itself. He approaches his subjects from oblique angles, evoking feelings of connection and disconnection, the experience of never quite grasping your own understanding of things. The poems place the reader in half-remembered places – on beaches walked during holidays, in festival gatherings and forests, film screenings and auction houses – asking not only what it means to look back fondly on a second-rate experience, but what it means to look forward to looking back on a moment while you’re still living through it.' (Source: Publisher's website)

Works About this Award

2002 Mary Gilmore Poetry Prize 2002 single work column
— Appears in: JASAL , vol. 1 no. 2002; (p. 112-113)
Includes the judges report on the winning work.
ASAL Literary Awards Robert Dixon , 1998 single work column
— Appears in: Notes & Furphies , October no. 41 1998; (p. 9-10)
ASAL Literary Awards 1995 : The Mary Gilmore Award Catherine Cecilia Pratt , 1995 single work criticism
— Appears in: Notes & Furphies , October no. 35 1995; (p. 17)
Australian Literature: Notes : Literary Awards [Southerly, vol.47 no.4, December 1987] 1987 single work column
— Appears in: Southerly , December vol. 47 no. 4 1987; (p. 464)