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Two under-the-radar Australian literary awards announced

July 21, 2013
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A couple of lesser known – but significant to me – literary awards were announced over the last week or so, one national and the other local. I’d like to tell you about them!

ALS Gold Medal 2013

The ALS Gold Medal is awarded by the Association for the Study of Australian Literature. It doesn’t usually get a lot of publicity, partly I suspect because it doesn’t carry a large purse but, rather, well, a gold medal! It is ” awarded annually for an outstanding literary work in the preceding calendar year”. Last year it was won by Gillian MearsFoal’s bread (my review), which also won the Prime Minister’s Literary Award (for Fiction). This year the medal was won by Michelle de Kretser’s Questions of travel, which also won, in May, the Miles Franklin Award. It’s my next read – and I can’t wait. The judges said:

Questions of Travel embarks on an exploration of the present and emerging conditions of late modernity on a scale that could only be successfully achieved by a highly accomplished writer. Through her two central characters, Australian woman, Laura, and Sri Lankan man, Ravi, De Kretser creates an expansive fictional space that both traverses continents while never losing sight of the separateness of individual lives defined by their especial relationships to place and culture, new and old. (AustLit News)

It was selected from a shortlist of five, which included books that haven’t been appearing on many other shortlists: Jessie Cole’s Darkness on the Edge of Town, Robert Drewe‘s Montebello, Christopher Koch‘s Lost Voices and P.A. O’Reilly’s The Fine Colour of Rust.

For reviews of these books, please check out Lisa at ANZLitLovers who’s already read them all!

ACT Poetry Prize 2013

I don’t often report on poetry prizes, and particularly not on local ones, but given my focus on Canberra’s Centenary this year, I figured why not. And, anyhow, I like the winning and shortlisted poems. There were apparently 128 entries, and they were judged by a blind panel of local poets, two male, one female.

The winning poem (and you can read it and the two shortlisted ones online) is “Inside” by Lesley Lebkowicz, whom I only really discovered this year through her short story about her immigrant parents,”The good shoppers”, in The invisible thread. “Inside” is about that invisible disease that afflicts women, osteoporosis, about living with something “inside”. Interestingly, this is also what “The good shoppers” is about, though what the characters are living with inside in that story is their experience of the Holocaust. “Inside” is a short poem, just 15 lines. Its language is accessible and evocative

Inside her, bone sheared off from itself like
limestone in a private landslide – and she fell.

But just when you think that’s all there is, you get the ending. It adds another layer to the story. Read it (using the link in the first line of this para).

The two shortlisted poems are also by women – Libby Porter (“Stabat Mater”, a bittersweet poem about loss, framed through perspectives on age) and Elizabeth Lawson (“Emily Kngwarreye”, a wry poem about indigenous versus non-indigenous attitudes to art). You can read them too at the link.

Canberra is, I think, blessed to have such excellent poets.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. July 21, 2013 9:26 pm

    Under the radar is right, I’m sure I signed up for email notifications and haven’t heard a word. I’ve read all five of those shortlisted books, nice to see them being acknowledged.

    • July 21, 2013 10:44 pm

      Oh Lisa, I heard via AustLit not via the ALS people. They don’t seem really organised. This year’s winner isn’t on their list of winners page yet (or wasn’t a couple of hours ago) though the award was announced a few days ago.

      • July 21, 2013 11:08 pm

        I suspect that either it’s a case of cash-strapped university offloads the responsibility to some already overworked academic and it falls by the wayside, or they have intern publicists only for a short while and so there’s no consistency. If they had the smarts they would all get together and fund one publicist for all these awards and she could do it properly.

        • July 21, 2013 11:16 pm

          Yes, you’re probably right. Some organisations, too, I think, haven’t really cottoned onto the fact that people do rely on their websites for information, so they don’t give it priority.

        • July 21, 2013 11:28 pm

          Yes!

  2. July 22, 2013 10:42 pm

    Michelle de Kretser is a name I keep seeing in articles about Australian literature today. Maybe it’s time I read this author.

    • July 22, 2013 11:31 pm

      I reckon it is Tony … I’ve read two of her four novels, and am about to read this latest. You could really try any I think, though some feel her third, The lost dog, is her least successful. I enjoyed it but probably likes The Hamilton case better.

  3. July 23, 2013 4:09 am

    The description of Questions of Travel is intriguing. Looking forward to hearing more about it. And yay poetry! The winner and the short-listed ones were good. It must have been so hard to decide a winner.

    • July 23, 2013 10:22 am

      Thanks Stefanie … hopefully you’ll hear more about it next week! Thought you’d like the poetry.

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  1. 2013 ALS Gold Medal winner | ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

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