Top Australian authors acknowledged at Melbourne Writers Festival (MWF)

Australian Centre co-directors Ken Gelder and Denise Varney award emerging authors for their compelling literature at the Melbourne Writers Festival Literary Awards.

Flute of Milk, Susan Fealy

Winner of The Wesley Michel Wright Prize in Poetry: Flute of Milk, Susan Fealy

Extracted from her first full-length poetry collection Flute of Milk, Fealy’s poems are at once stylistically unified and formally differentiated: she is capable of combining a great variety of themes with a characteristic subjective intensity.  Whether describing a Vermeer painting in Made in Delft or compressing environmental ages into brief stanzas in Lake Mungo, Fealy handles her material with extraordinary sensitivity. Beautifully poised around moments of art and place, her poems evince an exceptional command of lineation and cadence.

“I feel humbled to receive this award which has also been bestowed to poets whose work I have admired for many years. It is also special because of its connection to the University of Melbourne where I studied English Literature and Psychology in the 1980s: these years remain some of the happiest of my life. They were full of new learning, new possibilities, and an exhilarating kind of freedom.”

“The prize money will give me some valuable free time to write and to read: it creates new learning and new possibilities. Thank you for this wonderful affirmation and for the opportunity to nurture my writing. The prize has a heightened sense of connecting with the past while shining a light into the future: it makes me feel vividly alive and happy in the present.” Said Susan.

Dark Convicts, Judy Johnson

Commended: Dark Convicts, Judy Johnson
Judy’s poems from her book Dark Convicts reimagine the lives of John Martin and John Randall, two of her African American ancestors who became convicts on the First Fleet. Detailed, concentrated, and moving, this is a gutsy sequence of poems which deals with a difficult topic in an unexpected way, without false pathos, yet powerfully staging emblematic scenes of historical and personal significance.

Argosy, Bella Li

Commended: Argosy, Bella Li
The poems from Bella Li’s Argosy are drawn from an exquisite livre composé (inspired by the famous collage novels of the Surrealist painter Max Ernst), in which dense series of prose poems are set against rectified historical images of an absorbing strangeness. Near-hallucinatory visions are generated from Li’s beautifully-machinated encounters of character and image.

Redactor, Eddie Paterson

Commended: Redactor, Eddie Paterson
Eddie Paterson’s Redactor is a highly lively sequence: punchy, clever, and never less than entertaining. Hip without obnoxiousness, Paterson introduces hilarious and revelatory moments through non-standard punctuation, jump-cuts, and erasures of odd materials sourced from the multimedia noise of the contemporary world.

  • About the Judges

    Justin Clemens
    Associate Professor Justin Clemens gained his PhD from the University of Melbourne. He has published extensively on psychoanalysis, contemporary European philosophy, and contemporary Australian art and literature. His recent books include Lacan Deleuze Badiou (Edinburgh UP 2014), with A.J. Bartlett and Jon Roffe; Psychoanalysis is an Antiphilosophy (Edinburgh UP 2013); and Minimal Domination (Surpllus 2011).

    He was founding Secretary of the Lacan Circle of Melbourne (2004-2009), and was the art critic for the Australian magazine The Monthly (2004-2009). In addition to his scholarly work, he is well-known nationally as a commentator on Australian art and literature, and his essays and reviews have appeared in The Age, The Australian, The Monthly, Meanjin, Overland, Arena Magazine, TEXT, Un Magazine, Discipline, The Sydney Review of Books , and many others. He is currently Senior Lecturer in the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne.

    Dr Jeanine Leane

    Jeanine Leane
    Dr Jeanine Leane is a Wiradjuri writer, teacher and academic from southwest New South Wales. After a longer teaching career, she completed a doctorate in Australian literature and Aboriginal representation and a postdoctoral fellowship at the Australian Centre for Indigenous History at the Australian National University.

    She is the recipient of an Australian Research Council grant for her project, ‘The David Unaipon Award: Shaping the literary and history of Aboriginal Writing in Australian’ that examines the growth and impact of Aboriginal writing on Australian literary culture since 1988. Her first Volume of poetry, Dark Secrets After Dreaming: A.D. 1887-1961 (2010, Presspress) won the Scanlon Prize for Indigenous Poetry, 2010 and her first collection of stories, Purple Threads, won the David Unaipon Award for an unpublished Indigenous writer in 2010.

    Her poetry has been published in Hecate: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Women’s Liberation, The Journal for the Association European Studies of Australia and The Australian Book Review. Jeanine has published widely in the area of Aboriginal literature. She teaches Creative Writing and Aboriginal Literature at the University of Melbourne. Her second volume of poetry will be published in 2017.

    James Jiang
    Dr James Jiang received his PhD in English from the University of Cambridge in 2016. Since returning to Australia, he has been teaching in the English and Theatre Studies program at the University of Melbourne. His work has appeared in the Cambridge Quarterly, the Wallace Stevens Journal, and William James Studies. He has essays forthcoming in Modernism/modernity and the Sydney Review of Books. He also reviews contemporary poetry for Cordite.

Year of the Wasp, Joel Deane

Winner of The Vincent Buckley Poetry Prize: Year of the Wasp, Joel Deane
Joel Deane's poetry gives us striking and perceptive images of the world he moves through: actual local places like Melbourne's West Gate Bridge to distant locations he either visits or imagines and recreates. He charts his experiences with a vivid precision, dissecting his thoughts in ways that pay delirious tribute to the many possibilities of the poetic form.

Year of the Wasp is partly a chronicle of Deane's recovery after a stroke. The loss of language here becomes mythological, and is regained with an acute and critical awareness of the everyday world. Deane's poetry can turn to political matters on the one hand, while burrowing into the most intimately fraught experiences on the other: the lonely nocturnal killing of a fox, for example. But these glimpsed moments of cruelty and suffering sit alongside a series of touching insights into human love and warmth and the celebration of a human capacity to survive and endure: 'we love this life we are leaving', he writes, 'and are unafraid of the next'.  The sheer vitality of Joel Deane's poetry will no doubt invite an energetic and creative engagement with Irish poets and place through the Vincent Buckley Poetry Prize.

“I am humbled, honoured and thrilled to win this Prize. Humbled to win an award named after the great Vincent Buckley, honoured to be following in the footsteps of so many fine poets, and thrilled to have an opportunity to visit Ireland.” said Joel.

“My father's family left Tipperary for Melbourne in 1850, arriving just in time for the Gold Rush. They buried one of their children at sea but found enough gold to buy land and stay in Australia. In the six generations since, none of my direct forebears have returned to Ireland. As a freelance writer with three school-age children, I was also unlikely to visit. Now, thanks to the Vincent Buckley Poetry Prize, I can.”

“For me, winning the Vincent Buckley Poetry Prize echoes the good fortune my ancestors found on the goldfields because it is a golden opportunity to broaden my poetic horizons. I look forward to meeting contemporary Irish poets and experiencing the place of which my father and grandfather often spoke but never saw. While I am in Ireland, I plan to visit Tipperary and, by interviewing local people, plant seeds for a new cycle of poetry.”

“I would like to offer my heartfelt thanks to the judges, organisers and supporters of the Vincent Buckley Poetry Prize, especially his friends and family. I will strive to produce new poetry that lives up to this honour.”

Commended: Diane Fahey and Simon West
The judges commend the assured poetry of Diane Fahey, which reflects a deeply personal engagement with Irish traditions, landscape and folklore. The judges also commend the poetry of Simon West, which presents an elegant engagement with place, the natural world, and poetic traditions.

  • About the Prize
    The Vincent Buckley Poetry Prize was established to commemorate the life and work of the late Vincent Buckley; poet, critic and Professor of English at the University of Melbourne. It is a biennial award that is offered alternately to enable an Australian poet to visit Ireland and to facilitate the visit of an Irish poet to Melbourne.The Prize, which has been made available through generous donations from family and friends of Vincent Buckley, provides the recipient with a return airfare, and a contribution towards living expenses. The 2018 Vincent Buckley Poetry Prize is awarded to an Australian poet to travel to Ireland.
  • About the Judges

    Peter Otto
    Professor Peter Otto is the Acting Head, School of Culture and Communication at The University of Melbourne.

    Ken Gelder
    Ken Gelder is Professor of English and Theatre Studies at the University of Melbourne. He has been a visiting fellow at University College, London, and the University of Edinburgh. Ken currently teaches courses in modern and contemporary literature, popular/genre fiction, Australian literature and sub cultural studies.

    Ken is also a co-director (with Denise Varney) of the Australian Centre, in the School of Culture and Communication. He is co-author (with Paul Salzman) of two Australian literary histories - The New Diversity: Australian Fiction 1970-1988 (McPhee Gribble, 1989) and After the Celebration: Australian Fiction 1989-2007 (MUP, 2009) - and co-editor (with Rachael Weaver) of four anthologies of colonial popular fiction, covering the Gothic, crime fiction, romance and adventure (all published by MUP).

    Ken is on the editorial boards of the following journals: Gothic Studies, Australian Humanities Review, Adaptations, antiTHESIS, Journal of Popular Romance Studies, Transgressive Culture, and Cine-Excess e-journal. He is also on the editorial board of the International Gothic Series, and the Anthem Australian Humanities Research series.

    Linda Weste
    Dr Linda Weste is a writer, editor and poetry reviewer. Nothing Sacred, an historical novel in verse set in late Republican Rome (Arcadia Imprint, Australian Scholarly Publishing) won the 2016 Wesley Michel Wright Prize. An alumna of the University of Melbourne, she has a PhD in Creative Writing. Linda is currently teaching in the Creative Writing program at the University of Melbourne.

Winner of The Peter Blazey Fellowship: Work towards a biography of Trugannini, Cassandra Pybus
This is a valuable and important piece of biographical research, focusing on the life of Trugannini, an Indigenous Tasmanian woman who was taken from Bruny Island at the age of sixteen and, as Pybus puts it, was "effectively a prisoner of the state until she died in 1876".

The judges were impressed with the quality of writing, the rigor of the research and the command of narrative direction. This is a significant biography, one that will reveal both the horrors of militant colonialism and the ability of Indigenous people to survive under great duress. We note that this work is mindful of "the protocols that govern non-indigenous writers dealing with Indigenous subjects".

“I am so grateful to you and the judges for awarding me this fellowship for my work on Trugannini. As an independent scholar who does not has access to major research funding through the ARC it is very costly to pursue the kind of intensive research such a project demands and the funds plus the connection to the Australia Centre will be of enormous benefit to me, as well as source of pride to have been selected.” said Cassandra.

Commended: The Stranger Artist, Quentin Sprague
A compelling and culturally significant account of the developing creative relationship between the Gija artist Paddy Bedford and his non-Aboriginal arts advisor, Tony Oliver. The reader is taken on a fascinating journey to a place called Crocodile Hole, and charts the life of the community there and the role it played in Indigenous art production.

  • About the Prize

    The Peter Blazey Fellowship was established to honour the memory of Peter Blazey, journalist, author and gay activist, and has been made available through the generosity of Clive Blazey and Tim Herbert, brother and partner of Peter Blazey.

    Blazey was born in Melbourne in 1939 and worked for the Australian, the National Times and as a regular columnist for OutRage magazine. He published a number of books, including a political biography of Henry Bolte, and was co-editor of the short fiction anthology, Love Cries. His personal memoir, ScrewLoose, appeared after his death from AIDS in 1997.

  • About the Judges
    Professor Ken Gelder

    Ken Gelder
    Professor Ken Gelder is Professor of English and Theatre Studies at the University of Melbourne. He has been a visiting fellow at University College, London, and the University of Edinburgh. Ken currently teaches courses in modern and contemporary literature, popular/genre fiction, Australian literature and subcultural studies.

    Ken is also a co-director (with Denise Varney) of the Australian Centre, in the School of Culture and Communication. He is co-author (with Paul Salzman) of two Australian literary histories - The New Diversity: Australian Fiction 1970-1988 (McPhee Gribble, 1989) and After the Celebration: Australian Fiction 1989-2007 (MUP, 2009) - and co-editor (with Rachael Weaver) of four anthologies of colonial popular fiction, covering the Gothic, crime fiction, romance and adventure (all published by MUP).

    Ken is on the editorial boards of the following journals: Gothic Studies, Australian Humanities Review, Adaptations, antiTHESIS, Journal of Popular Romance Studies, Transgressive Culture, and Cine-Excess e-journal. He is also on the editorial board of the International Gothic Series, and the Anthem Australian Humanities Research series.

    Jonathan Green
    In a 30-year career Jonathan Green has worked as a senior writer and editor at several Australian newspapers, including 15 years at The Age. He was the editor of Crikey for three years and the founding editor of ABC’s online opinion site, The Drum. He is also a broadcaster and presenter of Radio National’s Blueprint for Living program. He joined Meanjin as editor in 2015 and is the Meanjin Enterprise Fellow in the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne.

    Professor Denise Varney

    Professor Denise Varney
    Denise Varney is Professor of Theatre Studies and co-director of the Australian Centre in the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne.

    She has served as co-convener of the Feminist Research Working Group of the International Federation for Theatre Research (2010-2015) and Senior Reviews Editor for Theatre Research International and is the Australian Drama Series Editor for Rodopi/Brill Scholarly Press, Amsterdam.

    She publishes on Brechtian and contemporary German theatre, feminist criticism and performance, women’s theatre, modern Australian Theatre and contemporary drama and performance and supervises research students in these fields.

    She is the author with Rachel Fensham of The Dolls’ Revolution: Australian Theatre and Cultural Imagination (2005), the contributing editor of Theatre in the Berlin Republic (2008), the author of Radical Visions: The Impact of the Sixties on Australia Drama (2011) and co-author of Theatre in the Asia Pacific (2013). She is currently working on an ARC funded research project on the theatre of Patrick White 1962-2015.

    Penny Blazey - a representative of the Blazey family.

    The Fever and Fret, Jub Clerc

    Winner of The Kate Challis RAKA Award: The Fever and the Fret, Jub Clerc
    Jub Clerc emerges as an exciting new voice in Australian theatre with her play 'Fever and Fret' which made its debut in Perth in 2015 with a superb production by Yirra Yaakin Theatre.  With a confidence borne of its grounding in Aboriginal experience, 'Fever and Fret' explores language, in its varying modalities, as a vehicle of Aboriginal subjectivity. This considered use of language gives the actors scope to develop their characters, and an enduring sense of their dignity, over the extended time frame of the play. With a backdrop of mining, and a family member's dementia, Clerc has written a play that draws audience and actors together in a profound shared experience that is culturally specific as well as universal.

    “When I found out I had won the award, my mind exploded and all these memories rushed in like a slide show. The past, the present and the future. I was overwhelmed and had to run out of the building before I burst into tears. I was crying because I was so happy. I love my family very much and felt so proud. It is their beliefs that I carry. I cried because I wish I could have called my mother like I always did, but I lost her a couple of months after the opening night of The Fever and the Fret. I remember her face as the lights went out on the final Act. We sat with each other till the early hours and talked about the life we had shared and all the adventures to come. Winning this award is like the spirits heard our whispered conversation and said this is your gift.”

    “Mum took me with her for many years all over Australia with the musical Bran Nue Dae. I was affectionately known as a Bran Nue Dae baby. Her love and commitment to the arts instilled a joy in me to pursue it as a career. It has been a long, hard and beautiful 20 plus years. This reward will help me concentrate on creating for myself. It will allow me the breathing space to work on scripts that have been patiently waiting for me. As much as I love working with my peers on their amazing projects, this will give me the chance to work on mine. It will allow me to attend writing events that will extend my knowledge of writing and connections to my peers.”

    “I would like to thank Emeritus Professor Bernard Smith (late) for establishing ‘The Kate Challis Award’ to honour the memory of his late wife, Kate Challis and to all those who help carry on their vision. Thank you a million times. Galiya Mabu.” said Jub

    Dancer Jacob Boehme in 'Blood on the Dance Floor'. (Photo Dorine Blaise) Image source:  SBS

    Commended: Jacob Boehme,'Blood on the Dance Floor'
    'Blood on the Dance Floor' is a sensitive and realistic portrayal of the real and continuing trans-generational impact of HIV among Australian Aboriginal men. This personal story told honestly and unapologetically creates a space for Aboriginal men to have a voice in the dialogue around HIV in Australia – a place previously consigned to white gay men.

    The Aboriginal gay community has been dealing with HIV since the 80s – mostly with shame and silence. This work breaks that silence, reminding its readers that HIV is not just a 'white' issue and not just a historical phenomenon.

    Commended: ‘The Season’, Nathan Maynard
    ‘The Season’ appealed to the judges for its touching representation of a modern Aboriginal family on its annual visit to Flinders Island for the mutton bird season. Themes of family and place are localised as three generations of the family share stories, reflect on the past and pass on knowledge to the young. This subtle comic drama hints gently at the wider social and cultural framework of contemporary Australia and its impact on family members at different stages of their lives. Its originality lies in its finely tuned account of a modern Aboriginal family in South-Eastern Australia and the ties that bind a family to each other and to place.

    • About the Award
      About the award The Kate Challis RAKA Award for Indigenous creative artists has been made available through the generosity of Professor Emeritus Bernard Smith, eminent art and cultural historian.The prize was established to honour the memory of his late wife, Kate Challis, who was known in her youth as Ruth Adeney (RAKA is an acronym for the Ruth Adeney Koori Award). In the Pintupi language RAKA means 'five' and in the Warlpiri RDAKA means 'hand', and both meanings are particularly apt for a prize to be awarded in a cycle of five years to individual artists - novelists, poets, musicians, painters and playwrights - whose 'hands' are the basic means of creativity.The award is offered annually and is to be applied to encourage Indigenous creative artists to undertake literary works, paintings, sculptures, craftwork, plays and musical compositions and to assist in advancing the recognition of Aboriginal achievements in these areas. It is awarded in a five-year cycle with a different area of the arts - creative prose, drama, the visual arts, scriptwriting and poetry - being rewarded each year.
    • About the Judges
      Professor Denise Varney

      Denise Varney
      Denise Varney is Professor of Theatre Studies and co-director of the Australian Centre in the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne.

      She has served as co-convener of the Feminist Research Working Group of the International Federation for Theatre Research (2010-2015) and Senior Reviews Editor for Theatre Research International and is the Australian Drama Series Editor for Rodopi/Brill Scholarly Press, Amsterdam.

      She publishes on Brechtian and contemporary German theatre, feminist criticism and performance, women’s theatre, modern Australian Theatre and contemporary drama and performance and supervises research students in these fields.

      She is the author with Rachel Fensham of The Dolls’ Revolution: Australian Theatre and Cultural Imagination (2005), the contributing editor of Theatre in the Berlin Republic (2008), the author of Radical Visions: The Impact of the Sixties on Australia Drama (2011) and co-author of Theatre in the Asia Pacific (2013). She is currently working on an ARC funded research project on the theatre of Patrick White 1962-2015.

      Elizabeth Heathcote and Mr Don Heathcote are representatives of the Smith Family.

      Doctor Jeanine Leane

      Jeanine Leane
      Dr Jeanine Leane is a Wiradjuri writer, teacher and academic from southwest New South Wales. After a longer teaching career, she completed a doctorate in Australian literature and Aboriginal representation and a postdoctoral fellowship at the Australian Centre for Indigenous History at the Australian National University.

      She is the recipient of an Australian Research Council grant for her project, ‘The David Unaipon Award: Shaping the literary and history of Aboriginal Writing in Australian’ that examines the growth and impact of Aboriginal writing on Australian literary culture since 1988. Her first Volume of poetry, Dark Secrets After Dreaming: A.D. 1887-1961 (2010, Presspress) won the Scanlon Prize for Indigenous Poetry, 2010 and her first collection of stories, Purple Threads, won the David Unaipon Award for an unpublished Indigenous writer in 2010.

      Her poetry has been published in Hecate: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Women’s Liberation, The Journal for the Association European Studies of Australia and The Australian Book Review. Jeanine has published widely in the area of Aboriginal literature. She teaches Creative Writing and Aboriginal Literature at the University of Melbourne. Her second volume of poetry will be published in 2017.

      Philip Morrissey
      Philip Morrissey was the Academic Coordinator of the Faculty of Arts Australian Indigenous Studies program and the Bachelor of Arts (Extended) for Indigenous students at the University of Melbourne until mid 2017. He led the development of the first Australian Indigenous Studies major (launched in 2009) and Honours program (launched in 2011). Under his leadership, the program has been recognised for innovative teaching/learning environment and curricula.

      Philip chaired the University's Indigenous Studies Teaching and Learning Programs Sub-Committee and Indigenous Scholarships and Awards Committee. He recently co produced the first anthology of poet and activist Lionel G Fogarty, Selected Works 1980-2016 (re.press, 2017). Fogarty was the recipient of the 2015 Kate Challis RAKA Award. Mr Philip Morrissey has been a member of the Australian Centre Advisory board since 2013.

      Philip Morrissey's principal research interest is Aboriginal urban culture. He has published on Aboriginal fine arts, film, literature, governance, sport and the public sphere.