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Author photo credit: Helen Kassila.
Samuel Wagan Watson Samuel Wagan Watson i(A22192 works by) (a.k.a. Sam Wagan Watson)
Born: Established: 1972 Brisbane, Queensland, ;
Gender: Male
Heritage: Aboriginal ; Aboriginal Birri-Gubba Juru ; German ; Irish ; Aboriginal Mununjali / Munaldjali ; Dutch ; Aboriginal Bundjalung
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State and National Award-winning poet and professional narrator and storyteller, Samuel Wagan Watson has Irish, German, Dutch, and Aboriginal (Munaldjali and Birri Gubba) ancestry. He is the son of prominent Brisbane-based writer and activist Sam Watson. Born in Brisbane Watson spent much of his earlier life on the fringe of the Sunshine Coast, but moved back to Brisbane to start a career.

In 1999, he was the winner of the David Unaipon Award for Emerging Indigenous Writers for his first collection of poetry Of Muse, Meandering and Midnight. Since then he has written: Itinerant Blues (2001), Hotel Bone (2001), The Curse Words (2011), and Smoke Encrypted Whispers which won the 2005 NSW Premier’s Award for the Book of the Year, and the National Kenneth Slessor prize for Poetry. In 2016 the chapbook, Monster’s Ink, was published.

As a contemporary poet and performer Watson has been in demand at major literary festivals and poetry events, including adaptations of his poetry into animation with the support of the Australian Film Commission. In 2005, a short documentary ‘Bound in Bitumen’ was produced and directed by filmmaker Helen Kassila, in which Watson reflected upon the historic divide of Boundary Street, West End, Brisbane in his poem ‘Last Exit to Brisbane’. This short documentary was acclaimed within the arts-festival circuit. Watson has toured as a writer and performer within Australia and overseas, and his writing has been translated into German, Norwegian, and Indonesian. In 2004, mixing his Indigenous culture with his love of Gothic horror, Watson produced and performed an opera ‘Die Dunkle Erde’ (The Dark Earth) with composers William Barton and Stephen Leek, which premiered in Brisbane in 2004 and again in 2005 at the Brisbane Music Festival.

In 2005 Watson was the poet-in-residence for the ABC TV’s ‘Sunday Arts’ and, in 2007 an artist-in-residence for the Indonesian ‘Utan Kayu’ Literary Biennale where his literary work was translated for audiences in Jakarta and central Java. In that same year, Watson first performed as a vocalist with Northern Territory artist and musician Leak Flanagan at the Newcastle National Young Writers’ Festival. Shortly after, Watson was commissioned by the Japanese Aeronautical Exploration Agency to develop haiku for the pleasure of astronauts living and working on the orbiting International Space Platform. More recently, Watson has been a poet-in-residence in the community of Yarrabah in North Queensland, and worked as a writer and script developer for 98.9FM Murri Country radio station in Brisbane.

In 2013, Smoke Encrypted Whispers was set to music by twenty-three Brisbane-based composers.

In between writing and working on community projects, including poetry in the built environment (his poetry adorns the Eleanor Schonell bridge in St Lucia, Queensland), Watson is a regular guest speaker, workshop facilitator and mentor centering around the creative arts.

(Sources: UQP website; Wikipedia website; ABC website; Writers Talk 2008 website; Poetry International Rotterdam website; ABC (German Vampires and The Dreamtime) The Music Show website; Snapshot Interview: Samuel Wagan-Watson, Ainslee Meredith 2012 on-line)



Most Referenced Works

Personal Awards

2018 winner Patrick White Award
2014 recipient Creative Industries Career Fund to attend 24 Medellin, in Colombia. Samuel will be working alongside other indigenous writers at the ‘Celebration of the Earth with Native Nations’ festival.

Awards for Works

y separately published work icon Love Poems and Death Threats Love Poems and Death Threats : A Collection of Poetry by Samuel Wagan Watson St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2014 7667424 2014 selected work poetry

'The much-anticipated new volume of poetry from the winner of the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards Book of the Year

'Samuel Wagan Watson set the literary world alight in 1999 with his David Unaipon award-winning collection of poems Of Muse, Meandering and Midnight. His next volume, Smoke Encrypted Whispers, won Book of the Year at the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards over Tim Winton.

'In this, his first new volume of poetry in nearly a decade, he once again excites, inspires and shocks. Woven into this collection is a dark, satirical take on contemporary Australia, with its acquisitiveness and materialism, Wagan Watson shows an intense political engagement. The poems are dynamic, vivid and powerful, containing the clear language of witness reminiscent of Indigenous song-writers such as Kev Carmody and Dr Yunupingu.

'Love Poems and Death Threats breaks new ground for Indigenous Australian writing and adds to Samuel Wagan Watson’s reputation as one of our most exciting poets.' (Publication summary)

2016 shortlisted Festival Awards for Literature (SA) Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature John Bray Award for Poetry
2016 winner Scanlon Prize for Poetry
y separately published work icon Smoke Encrypted Whispers St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2004 Z1123977 2004 selected work poetry (taught in 5 units)

'These poems pulse with the language and images of a mangrove-lined river city, the beckoning highway, the just-glimpsed muse, the tug of childhood and restless ancestors. For the first time Samuel Wagan Watson's poetry has been collected into this stunning volume, which includes a final section of all new work.' (Source: UQP website:

2005 commendation Australian Centre Literary Awards The Kate Challis RAKA Award
2005 winner New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry
y separately published work icon Of Muse, Meandering and Midnight St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2000 Z668862 2000 selected work poetry (taught in 2 units) 'In a voice youthful, passionate and questioning, these poems reflect on growing up and on letting go; on urban dwellers in love and lust; and on the artist and his Murri community. The politics are unguarded and often amusing, and the language is playful, rhythmic and evocative. Ghosted by ancestors and muses, Watson's cityscape interweaves past and present.' (Source: Publisher's blurb)
1999 winner Queensland Literary Awards Unpublished Indigenous Writer : David Unaipon Award
Last amended 28 Nov 2019 06:10:44
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