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

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.

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)

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)

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)

2016 winner y separately published work icon Brush Joanne Burns , Artarmon : Giramondo Publishing , 2014 8009653 2014 selected work poetry

The title of Joanne Burns’ new collection brush highlights the reader’s first experience of a poem, its initial electricity; and the way the poem offers a surface of words that proceeds to reveal their possibilities or intentions. The central sequence ‘road’ is an animated display of the fashions of being in contemporary life – these poems are cheeky, playful, mercurial, surreal. Then there is the sequence called ‘bluff’, which excoriates twenty-first century financial culture with bite, hilarity and a sense of the absurd. There is a section devoted to personal memoir, including a five-part poem featuring Bondi beach, and a suite of memory fragments depicting twentieth-century modes of travel. The final group of poems, ‘wooing the owl (or the great sleep forward)’, explores the night, sleep and dreams, with their strange tones and surprising perspectives. There are 80 poems in the collection, most of them short, stressing the compressed pleasure that only poetry can offer. [From the publisher's website]

2015 winner y separately published work icon Earth Hour David Malouf , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2014 6858541 2014 selected work poetry

'In his first full volume of poetry since Typewriter Music in 2007, David Malouf once again shows us why he is one of Australia's most enduring and respected writers.' (Publisher's blurb)

2014 winner y separately published work icon Novelties Fiona Hile , Melbourne : Hunter Publishers , 2013 6566931 2013 selected work poetry
2013 winner y separately published work icon Ruby Moonlight Ruby Moonlight : A Novel of the Impact of Colonisation in Mid-North South Australia Around 1880 Ali Cobby Eckermann , Broome : Magabala Books , 2012 Z1861301 2012 single work novel (taught in 2 units)

'A verse novel that centres around the impact of colonisation in mid-north South Australia around 1880. Ruby, refugee of a massacre, shelters in the woods where she befriends an Irishman trapper. The poems convey how fear of discovery is overcome by the need for human contact, which, in a tense unravelling of events, is forcibly challenged by an Aboriginal lawman. The natural world is richly observed and Ruby’s courtship is measured by the turning of the seasons.'

Source: Magabala Books.

2012 winner y separately published work icon New and Selected Poems Gig Ryan , Artarmon : Giramondo Publishing , 2011 Z1819851 2011 selected work poetry (taught in 1 units)
2011 winner y separately published work icon Pirate Rain Jennifer Maiden , Artarmon : Giramondo Publishing , 2009 Z1651151 2009 selected work poetry

'Pirate Rain builds on the highly acclaimed George Jefferies poems, exploring themes of power, violence, politics and love across Paris, Baghdad, New York and the waters of the Gulf.

The poems discuss the US Presidential campaign, the War on Terror, economic crises and celebrity meltdowns on the one hand, and intensely personal themes of anger, privacy, family, art and love on the other, bringing each into sharp and often biting relief against the other.

Pirate Rain is a vigorous, rich and witty collection, from one of the most individual voices of contemporary Australian poetry.' (From the publisher's website.)

2010 winner y separately published work icon The Sonnet According to 'M' Jordie Albiston , Melbourne : John Leonard Press , 2009 Z1668842 2009 selected work poetry

'The letter 'm' is emblematic of recurrence and precipitousness in these poems. They emerge with the wantonness of sensations in everyday life. In this case three lives: maternal grandmother, paternal great-great grandmother and the poet. Jordie Albiston, with characteristic delicacy and zest, limns these very different women as perspectives to each other.

Recurrence is intrinsic to sonnets. They are patterned internally, and are often paroxysmal: a perfect form and formation for poems which worry the distinction between the fatal and the banal.

The sequence tells what happens when you admit the existential into everyday life, in small or large doses. The results can be desolate, or sublime. And comedic as well: Albiston knows how to play between darkness and send-up, when it comes to an arduous and animating tension between body and mind.' (Publisher's blurb)

2009 winner y separately published work icon Man Wolf Man L. K. Holt , Elwood : John Leonard Press , 2007 Z1454353 2007 selected work poetry
2008 winner y separately published work icon Two Kinds of Silence Kathryn Lomer , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2007 Z1398262 2007 selected work poetry
2007 winner y separately published work icon Urban Myths : 210 Poems : New and Selected John Tranter , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2006 Z1268860 2006 selected work poetry (taught in 4 units)

'Urban Myths: 210 Poems brings the best work to date from a poet considered one of the most original of his generation in Australia, together with a generous selection of new work. Smart, wry and very stylish, John Tranter’s poems investigate the vagaries of perception and the ability of language to converge life, imagination and art so that we arrive, unexpectedly, at the deepest human mysteries.' (Publication summary)

2006 winner y separately published work icon Latecomers Jaya Savige , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2005 Z1213117 2005 selected work poetry

'Winner of the prestigious Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize, Jaya Savige’s latecomers is a first collection of poems by one of Australia’s most exciting young poets. Lively, playful, and always intelligent, Savige’s poems show an awareness of place, of the inescapability of history, and a personal commitment to the precision of language. ‘The poems in latecomers go beyond what we take for granted these days in a first collection: refinement of language and cadence, allusiveness, wit. Moving easily through abstract wonders and the streets of the inner city, they return for nourishment to family and ‘the Island’ – Bribie, its fishing-life and beaches – as a test always of what is native and endures’ – DAVID MALOUF' (Publication summary)

2005 winner y separately published work icon Smoke Encrypted Whispers Samuel Wagan Watson , 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:

2004 winner y separately published work icon Dear Deliria: New and Selected Poems Pamela Brown , Applecross : Salt Publishing , 2002 Z1042495 2002 selected work poetry
2003 winner y separately published work icon Screens Jets Heaven : New and Selected Poems Jill Jones , Applecross Cambridge : Salt Publishing , 2002 Z979485 2002 selected work poetry
2002 winner y separately published work icon The Lovemakers : Book One : Saying All the Great Sexy Things Alan Wearne , Ringwood : Penguin , 2001 Z795937 2001 single work novel

'Centred on Australian suburbia in the 60s, 70s and 80s The Lovemakers explores the inner and outer tensions of families, friendships and society whilst charting the sleaze, mayhem and humanity that go to make a nation's life. Taking the triangle of Barb, her husband Roger and her lover Neil for its emotional heart the work then explodes into the lives of Kevin the heroin czar, Stubbsy the entrepreneur, Gibbo the comedian and Sophie, Hannah and Carrie, three women each set on making her way in the world. Meanwhile, through a life and times consumed by melodrama and farce, money and nothing, ambles Kim Lacey — drug importer, merchant banker, a two-faced charmer forever on the approximate make.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

2001 winner y separately published work icon Africa Ken Taylor , Wollongong : Five Islands Press , 2000 Z668575 2000 selected work poetry