Those who come after
Nine months ago, in association with the Copyright Agency Limited (CAL), ABR announced the creation of a major new annual essay prize. In doing so we were conscious of the importance of the genre and of ABR’s long commitment to its preservation and promulgation. We set out to attract entries from the widest range of Australian writers (not just celebrated essayists). In order to entice a distinguished field, the Calibre Prize was valued at $10,000.
We can now report that Calibre, in its first year, is a success. We received almost 120 entries. Inevitably, not all of them were of the highest order. Some functioned (may even have been written) as academic exercises; others read like chapters in a life-writing exercise, admittedly with subjective interest, but with little of the essay’s discrete, rounded appeal. Defining an essay, of course, is the quickest route to madness. The three judges – Kerryn Goldsworthy (a former Editor of ABR), Peter Rose (the current Editor) and Imre Salusinszky (editor of The Oxford Book of Australian Essays) – were liberal in their view of what constitutes an engaging, pertinent essay. Voice … address … lightness … compactness … reread-ability… these terms came up often in their conversations, as they set out to identify the most outstanding essay.