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2023 Peter Porter Poetry Prize Winner

Dan Disney was named the overall winner of the 2023 Peter Porter Poetry Prize at an online ceremony on 19 January 2023 for his poem ‘periferal, fantasmal’.

The Porter Prize – Australia’s most prestigious poetry competition – is worth a total of $10,000. This year’s judges – Sarah Holland-Batt, Des Cowley and James Jiang – shortlisted five poems by Chris Andrews (NSW ), Chris Arnold (WA), Michelle Cahill (NSW ), Dan Disney (South Korea/Australia), and Raisa Tolchinsky (USA). The shortlisted poems were selected from 1,132 entries sent from thirty-four countries. They appear in the January–February issue of ABR.

Congratulations to Dan Disney and to all the poets shortlisted and longlisted in the 2023 Peter Porter Poetry Prize!

In their report the judges noted:

‘A tour de force of linguistic estrangements, “periferal, fantasmal” excavates the colonial history sedimented in the names that litter the landscape of the Gippsland region in Victoria. Through its comic neologisms and deft calibrations of lyric temporality, the poem replays the sanction for mineral extraction provided by exonymic nomination, reminding us of the scotch-soaked nightmare from which we are still trying to awake'.

On learning of his win, Dan Disney commented:

‘Peter Porter opens his poem “Landscape with Orpheus” with an epigraph from The Magic Flute – “You only live once, let that be enough for you!”. Poems like Porter’s generate not only wonder but also awed awareness (and, for me, a shift thereafter towards ethical, experimental rhetoric). I am dazzled to be in the bright reality of a moment like this. It is an incredible honour to receive a prize bearing the name of such a prodigiously enlivening, humanising poet'.


periferal, fantasmal

by Dan Disney

Residents in the high country town of Benambra are cautiously optimistic it could be on the brink of another mining boom.

The Weekly Times, 4 August 2022

Angus McMillan is lost (again), bushwhacked
in the eucalypt fastnesses of Yaimathang
space, lolling in the dry wainscots
of a thirsting imaginarium, highlander pre-thief
expeditioneering through the land-folds
of community 100 generations deep
(at least) & parlously drunk (again), wandering
pointy guns through the sun-bright climes
later declaimed as alpine, o Angus, you’re lairy
& hair-triggered as a proto-laird, scratching
exonyms into future
placeholders as effacement, chimeless
as your Caledonia Australis (yeah, pipped at the post
by ‘Gipps Land,’ that howling
strzeleckification), & in the fire-crazed hills
Benambra slouches, heat-struck
descendants squinting beside the vanished
(again) Lake Omeo, where ghosts flop
or palely wade, cascading
generations generating cascading generations
as if contagion, feral as syntax reasserting the mere
bunyipdoms of itself, & I read today
a zinc mining crowd
is bee-lining for the outskirts of town
where the brown farms end, & locals already
yipping in full chant, ANOTHER CHANCE FOR
McMillan (dumbfounded, non-finding
founder) is out there, still, looping
in stumbles like a repetition
compulsion through the unheimlich
antipodean sublime, syphilitically
occupied in louche preoccupations (namely,
naming the already-named, the-there-&-known,
uttering under white gums in bullet & bulletin
the Quackmungees of his idylling) & while
Benambra’s locals apply next layers
of sunscreen to the books they’re calling history,
hallooing through firestorm, STAND UP
FOR OUR HERITAGE, in the big wet of his oblivions
McMillan is flat out like a bataluk drinking
amid the squatters & Vandemonians,
Iguana Creek, 1865, it is moments before death
& he’s raising one more scotch
(again) in our direction, scowls into the clamouring
sweep of an existential curtain, falling
(as he is, into the old land’s burr,
the only time you’ll hear him speaking here)

1 As per Peter Gardner’s book: ‘historians have tended to recognize the priority of McMillan and posterity has left us with all the names that McMillan conferred on the countryside except one – Strzelecki’s “Gipps Land” instead of McMillan’s “Caledonia Australis”.’ See Our Founding Murdering Father: Angus McMillan and the Kurnai Tribe of Gippsland 1839-1865, page 19. Exonymic renaming is one dimension of colonial effacement; in the generations after British annexation, a polyphony of invading languages systematically intersected the colonies’ landscapes, including McMillian’s Scottish Gaelic. The last lines in this text translate from that language, approximately, as ‘idiots, learn your damned history.’ Elsewhere, other capitalised lines are drawn verbatim from the Facebook group ‘Anyone who has lived in Omeo, Benambra, Swifts Creek or Ensay’. ‘Quackmungee’ is the name of one of the vast areas of land controlled by McMillan, who is recorded in the Colony of Victoria’s 1856 census as owning 150,000 acres. In the Gurnaikurnai language, ‘bataluk’ translates to English as ‘lizard’; so total is the genocidal erasure of Indigenous culture that no record exists for the Yaimathang language group’s word for ‘lizard’. In 1865, McMillan died in Gilleo’s Hotel, Iguana Creek.


Dan Disney cropped Im Hyejin Yivadi Studio

Dan Disney's most recent collection of poems, accelerations & inertias, (Vagabond Press 2021), was shortlisted for the Judith Wright Calanthe Award and received the Kenneth Slessor Prize. Together with Matthew Hall, he is the editor of New Directions in Contemporary Australian Poetry (Palgrave 2021). He teaches with the English Department at Sogang University, in Seoul. 

Further information

The Peter Porter Poetry Prize is one of Australia’s most prestigious poetry awards.

Subscribe to ABR to gain access to this issue online, plus the ABR archive.

Click here for more information about past winners.

We gratefully acknowledge the long-standing support of Morag Fraser AM and Andrew Taylor AM and support in memory of Kate Boyce.

1 Comment

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    Wow, Dan Disney, that's a read again, read again, poem. Congratulations on a well-deserved win.

    21 June 2023 Posted by Sharen Watson

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