Sophie Cunningham is the winner of this year’s Calibre Prize for an Outstanding Essay. The judges – Delia Falconer and Peter Rose – chose Ms Cunningham’s essay from a field of almost 100 essays. She receives $5,000 from ABR.
Our winner is well known to Australian readers as a former publisher, Editor of Meanjin, and Chair of the Literature Board. She has published two novels as well as Melbourne (in the Cities series) and Warning: The Story of Cyclone Tracy.
‘Staying with the Trouble’ covers very different terrain from that of Martin Thomas’s and Christine Piper’s celebrated Calibre-winning essays: ‘“Because it’s your country”: Bringing Back the Bones to West Arnhem Land’ (2013) and ‘Unearthing the Past’ (2014), which dealt with historical wrongs and biological horrors, respectively. In her essay, Sophie Cunningham (pictured opposite and on our front cover) describes an epic walk up Broadway in New York, and others like it. The tone is self-deprecating, conversational, and ‘gloriously social’, but all sorts of themes arise along the way: Alzheimer’s, Horseshoe Crabs, history, writers, violence against women, racism, Selma, and climate change. It is a celebration of ‘randomness’, but also testifies to Sophie Cunningham’s belief in the importance of ‘staying with the trouble’.
On learning that she had won the Calibre Prize, Sophie Cunningham, who recently moved from Brooklyn to San Francisco, told Advances: 'I wrote this essay with no expectations, from a concern with how one narrates the personal and fragmented while chronicling issues as broad as climate change and mass extinction. I had become obsessed with walking and needed a deadline. The Calibre Prize has rewarded a rich variety of writers who have tackled an extraordinary range of topics. Each year I’ve read the winner and been inspired. I feel incredibly honoured to now be among these winners’ number.’
This is the ninth time that ABR has offered the Calibre Prize, which is intended to advance the essay form in this country. We look forward to offering Calibre again in 2016, and we gratefully acknowledge the generous support of Mr Colin Golvan QC.
Six poets have been shortlisted for the 2015 Peter Porter Poetry Prize. They are: Judith Beveridge, Eileen Chong, Toby Fitch, John Kinsella, Kate Middleton, and Alex Skovron (who won the Porter Prize in 2007). The shortlisted poems can be read here. Our three judges – Lisa Gorton, Paul Kane, and Peter Rose – selected them from an overall field of about 600 poems.
ABR in London
ABR is pleased to be involved in the second Australian and New Zealand Festival of Literature and Arts in London this month. The Festival takes place at King’s College from 28 to 31 May. Australian participants will include Peter Carey, Li Cunxin, and Kate Grenville. There will be more than forty events. Among the themes are nature and the environment, the arts and science, travel and adventure, and the two world wars.
Peter Rose will be involved in two sessions, reading from his poetry and chairing a session called ‘War in Writing’ with British poet and novelist Ruth Padel and New Zealand poet laureate Vincent O’Sullivan.
May in Canberra
Budgets aside, it will be a good month for oratory in Canberra. The National Library of Australia is hosting two public lectures by distinguished novelists.
Andrea Goldsmith will deliver the Ray Mathew Lecture. Her theme is ‘Private Passions, Public Exposure’. The date is Thursday, 14 May (6 pm). Ms Goldsmith will repeat the Lecture for ABR at Boyd on Wednesday, 5 August, and at Flinders University on Friday, 9 October.
Frank Moorhouse will deliver the Colin Simpson Lecture on Saturday, 23 May (11.30 am). His Lecture, presented in association with the Australian Society of Authors, is titled ‘Does the Imagination Have Ethics?’
Award-winning author Ashley Hay is the 2015 ABR Dahl Trust Fellow. Her long article, ‘The Forest at the Edge of Time’ will examine ‘what our mongrel trees tell us about our past, the present, and the future’. It will appear in this year’s Environment issue (October). Ashley Hay has published several books, including Gum: The Story of Eucalypts and Their Champions (2002), The Railwayman’s Wife (2013), which won the Colin Roderick Award, and (as editor) Best Australian Science Writing 2014.
The third biennial Nature Conservancy Australian Nature Writing Prize, worth $5,000, has five writers on its shortlist: Nick Gadd, Hayley Katzen, Kim Mahood, Cathy Mauk, and Tony Spencer-Smith. The Prize is for an essay that the judges (Jesse Blackadder and Robert Gray) think ‘best explores how a writer relates to and interacts with some aspect of the Australian landscape’.
The winner will be announced on Thursday, 14 May, and the successful essay will be published in our Environment issue – a new partnership for ABR.