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Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry
Subcategory of New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards
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Notes

  • Awarded to a published collection of poems or a single poem of book length.

Latest Winners / Recipients

Year: 2021

winner y separately published work icon Throat Ellen van Neerven , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2020 18673599 2020 selected work poetry

'Throat is the explosive second poetry collection from award-winning Mununjali Yugambeh writer Ellen van Neerven. Exploring love, language and land, van Neerven flexes their distinctive muscles and shines alight on Australia’s unreconciled past and precarious present with humour and heart. Van Neerven is unsparing in the interrogation of colonial impulse, and fiercely loyal to telling the stories that make us who we are.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

Year: 2020

winner y separately published work icon Enfolded in the Wings of a Great Darkness Peter Boyle , Sydney : Vagabond Press , 2019 14816243 2019 selected work poetry

'Enfolded in the Wings of a Great Darkness represents a new departure in my writing. It is a single book-length poem made up of fragments and shorter pieces in varied styles that build towards the last line, which is the book's title. I have aimed at a sparse, open simplicity in this book, a clarity and brevity sufficient to carry the weight of the space I am now in, with my illnesses, my partner's cancer and the acute sense of time's limits. The poems question what it might mean to live and write in the immediate knowledge of death, what response we can find when out of the blue we, or the one we love, are told we have a very limited time, three or five years, to live. At the artistic as well as the personal level, there is also a need for balance in the work, as beauty, tenderness, the presence of the natural world, light as well as dark, insist on their place in the poem.'

Source: Author's blurb.

Year: 2019

winner y separately published work icon Interval Judith Bishop , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2018 13514494 2018 selected work poetry

'Bishop’s attentive poetic gaze unfailingly reveals the luminous. In Interval, her poems – many addressed to a lover, or to children – explore intimacy, solitude and the ‘chemical mess’ of human love. As Carl Phillips said of Event, ‘These are splendid poems indeed, whose intelligence, vision, and sheer beauty at every turn persuade.’ '  (Publication summary)

Year: 2018

winner y separately published work icon Argosy Bella Li , Newtown : Vagabond Press , 2017 11075538 2017 selected work poetry

'This innovative full-length collection, drawing inspiration from the surrealist collage novels of Max Ernst, is an arresting and utterly unique assemblage of poetry, collage and photography. In two parts, the book engages with themes of travel and exploration, language and loss, identity and originality, as well as the relationship between poetry and other disciplines: the visual arts, history, literature and film. Polyglot in sensibility and content, and daring in construction, Argosy defies categorisation. Grounded firmly in Australian contemporary poetic practice, the book is also outward-looking in its approach to form and content; it constitutes a landmark in both local and international poetics.' (Publication Summary)

Year: 2017

winner y separately published work icon Ghostspeaking Peter Boyle , Newtown : Vagabond Press , 2016 10150038 2016 selected work poetry

'Eleven fictive poets from Latin America, France and Québec. Their poems, interviews, biographies and letters weave images of diverse lives and poetics. In the tradition of Fernando Pessoa, Boyle presents an array of at times humorous, at times tormented heteronymous poets. In their varied voices and styles, writing as they do across the span of the 20th Century and into the 21st , these haunted and haunting figures offer one of poetry’s oldest gifts – to sing beauty in the face of death. In all this Boyle, their fictive translator, is deeply enmeshed.' (Publication summary)

Works About this Award

Poet Ellen van Neervan Wins Book of the Year, Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry and Multicultural NSW Award at NSW Premier's Literary Awards Dee Jefferson , 2021 single work column
— Appears in: ABC News [Online] , April 2021;
'Young Mununjali Yugambeh author Ellen van Neerven pulled off a hat-trick at the NSW Premier's Literary Awards for their second poetry collection, Throat, at an online ceremony on Monday evening.' (Introduction)
Judging Blind Peter Kenneally , 2015 single work column
— Appears in: Overland [Online] , April 2015;
'A brief and unscientific survey of prizes in Australia had equally unsurprising results. From the Premier’s Awards in Victoria and New South Wales to the Newcastle Poetry Prize to the Josephine Ulrich or the Anne Elder Awards, among others, my list mirrors Fulton’s. Needless to say this is not a consciously racist exclusion, but a structural problem in Australian letters. Samuel Wagan Watson and Ali Cobby Eckermann, both Indigenous poets, won the NSW Book of the Year and the Kenneth Slessor Poetry Prize, in 2005 and 2013 respectively. But in the awards I looked at they seem to be the only exceptions, especially of high profile poets who identify as non-white. That is only two out of a possible 120. As for the judges, it may be close to a clean sweep – after all you are hardly going to be called on as a judge unless you have won an award or two yourself.'
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