Stella Prize 2022 Winner announced

The 2022 Stella Prize winner was announced tonight and it’s not a surprise, as several of us in the blogosphere rather thought that

Evelyn Araluen’s Dropbear

would be the winner. Indeed, I was so confident I took it with me to Melbourne this month, fully intending to read it. But, there was not much reading time, and it took most of my time there to finally finish 2020’s winner, Jess Hill’s See what you made me do (my review). I only read a couple of pages of Dropbear before I realised that I’d better read my reading group book for this week’s meeting. (It’s the next review you’ll see!) So, Dropbear is still languishing on the TBR, but you may remember from my shortlist announcement that Brona has reviewed it.

The book is a combination of prose and poetry, and the judges described it as:

a breathtaking collection of poetry and short prose which arrests key icons of mainstream Australian culture and turns them inside out, with malice aforethought. Araluen’s brilliance sizzles when she goes on the attack against the kitsch and the cuddly: against Australia’s fantasy of its own racial and environmental innocence.

The panel chair, Melissa Lucashenko, said that it will take you “on a wild ride” that is “simultaneously comical and dangerous”. All this confirms my desire to read it, because I enjoy writers who play with traditions, conventions and myths to encourage us to look again at who we are and what we do.

The quotes above, plus one by Stella’s Executive Director, Jaclyn Booton, can be found on the Stella website (linked below). There is also a quote from Evelyn Araluen’s acceptance. She commented that she’d been following the Stella for the length of her writing aspirations, and had hoped one day to write a novel that would win it. She never dreamed Dropbear would be that winner. She also said:

I’m deeply interested in the lives, histories, and dreams of women and gender diverse writers in Australian publishing, and it’s an honour to be recognised by a prize designed to champion those stories. There aren’t words to explain how thrilled I am to win.

Just to remind you, the judges were author Melissa Lucashenko, as chair, with her co-judges being writer, poet, essayist Declan Fry; author-across-all-forms Cate Kennedy; memoirist and activist Sisonke Msimang; and essayist and screenwriter Oliver Reeson

There’s more on the anouncement on the Stella website.

Any comments?

35 thoughts on “Stella Prize 2022 Winner announced

  1. I haven’t read it all (yet) but the bits that I have read are marvellous. I can’t say I’m surprised by the win, because I reckon it’s a stunning collection. Certainly very bold, original, piercing, and defiant. You must get onto it, Sue.

    • I will Glen … it won’t be straight away as I have some books I just must read. I could wait for Lisa’s ILW week in July, but I will try to read it before then, actually!

  2. This has been my year of least engagement with the Stella. Why? I’m not entirely sure. I had the stack of shortlist books from the library – didn’t read any of them (apart from having already read Bodies of Light). I kind of knew that as soon as they announced poetry would be included, that one of the poetry selections would win this year and, to be perfectly frank, I’m not interested in poetry. So, perhaps I have released myself from reading the Stella list going forward…

    • I have never been as assiduous as you have Kate so don’t feel particularly different about this year. I did notice you were quieter about it. I missed your posts.

      Regardless of what I think about individual years, I think it is a great prize because it dares to be different and we sure need that. Not that more traditional forms and prizes aren’t good too, but things do need shaking up and other voices need to be heard? I hear you re poetry. I don’t have the energy to read a lot I admit, but I am interested in Dropbear because it’s a bit different. I’m looking forward to seeing how different!

  3. So glad drop bear won. I could be tempted to pull out my copy and enjoy a reread. Hope you get to it soon. Your deeper knowledge of Australian literature & mythology will no doubt reveal more connections that I only half-glimpsed.

  4. I’m with Kate about *most of* the published poetry I come across. There are exceptions and I cherish those, but I am a firmly committed reader of novels.
    So I am delighted to see in today’s Guardian that Araluen is already working on her next project, which she describes as “a fictocritical novel” about sexism and racism in 20th-century Australian publishing, which seeks to explore how discrimination and bias impacts publishing today.”
    It might just be a rant of course, but still, it might be fun.

    • Yes, completely understand, Lisa, because so am I, when you look at my breakdown. But I’m open to poetry, of course, and think that Stella did the right thing, being an “all forms” prize to include poetry.

      It will be interesting to see her novel because she has a lively mind – and that topic is ripe for exploration.

      • The other thing is, we cannot do everything and do it well. From time to time we see fellow-bloggers stressing about not meeting some self-imposed targets, perhaps in response to pressure coming from elsewhere, maybe publicists, authors, readers, self-publishers, comparison with other bloggers and sometimes from some sector that finds it hard to get reviews, such as poetry. One of the ways I deal with this is to be clear and consistent about what I will and will not do, which is partly based on what I want to do, so that blogging remains a pleasure and not an onerous burden, but also what I can and cannot do because I don’t have the experience or the expertise.

        • Yes, well said. We do need to be clear about what we can and as you say want to do. This is not to say we can’t stray every now and then into less charted waters (though my fear when I do this is that people might presume I’ll stay there!)

        • By coincidence, I had an email today from a PRH publicist asking me if I were interested in a new book of poetry from Ocean Vuong. It made me wonder… we’ve gone from a situation where publishing poetry was unprofitable niche because it didn’t sell, to one where even the big publishers are producing it. Are people really reading it now, enough for it to be profitable?

        • I could be saying more than I know here, but I think poetry collections still fall into the same category as a lot of literary fiction; that is, their publication is subsidised by the sales of more lucrative titles and also, perhaps in the case of some specialist poetry publishers, by grants. Hence the everlasting argument about the need to invest in cultural capital, rather than always insisting that it “pays its way.” Occasionally a poetry anthology generates enough positive press that people who wouldn’t normally read poetry feel emboldened to take the risk with it, and so it goes on to sell far in excess of most other poetry books.

        • The interesting things is, that Indigenous poetry is doing well and not just with prizes. It might just be the titles that have come my way, but while the subject matter is usually confronting and distressing, I don’t find it hard to understand. It’s accessible in a way that a lot of other contemporary poetry isn’t.

        • I think that’s partly because it’s political, Lisa? Political poetry tends to be more accessible – says she generalising wildly – because communication of ideas is the main goal. Other poetry might be more interested in communicating emotions, or senses, or abstract ideas, which might affect how they approach language?

        • I don’t know… with the exception of Indigenous poetry because I tend to know what’s available more readily, I don’t read enough of it to know what’s representative or not.

    • And that’s part of her joke Melanie … the way it encompasses fear of the Australian landscape which has quite layered meaning within and without Australia. I’m so looking forward to reading this.

        • In the Midwest we’re mostly worried about ticks. Climate change is making winter longer, so the ticks (and mosquitoes) have more time to breed. I don’t do a whole lot of anything in the woods anymore.

        • An interesting, Melanie. Ticks are an issue in parts of Australia – I got one in my head during our honeymoon where we stayed in a Queensland National Park. It freaked my Canberra husband out, but I’d lived with them in Sydney, mainly pets getting them not people though. I’ve not heard people talk here about their increasing due to climate change. I’ll keep my ear out. (You can wear a hat and long pants and long sleeves for walking?)

        • My dad got one on his side under his shirt, and that man ALWAYS tucks his shirt in, so now I’m doubly paranoid. Also, I know of someone who was bitten by a tick and had a mental breakdown from the resulting virus (I believe?) that he got.

        • I must just be strong! Ha ha. Seriously, though, there are awful diseases carried by ticks so it pays to be careful. But then, more people die in road accidents (or, even, by guns in America) than by ticks?

        • For sure. We’re a very car-crashy/shooty sort of people, unfortunately. I once saw a video shot in Japan of people driving and doing the zipper maneuver perfectly, and my mind was blown.

        • Thank you, Sue!

          I’m starting to worry that every stereotype about America is true. 20 years ago I might have gently protested some of the stereotypes, but now…

  5. I don’t follow the Stella Prize at all, but I did hear about this and borrowed it from the library today (I’m the first person to borrow it!) & I’ve just had a quick look and it seems quite wonderful. I am looking forward to reading this properly. Will be interested in your thoughts, Sue!

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