Accessibility Tools

  • Content scaling 100%
  • Font size 100%
  • Line height 100%
  • Letter spacing 100%


JUser: :_load: Unable to load user with ID: 5271

2016 Porter Prize Shortlist

March 2016, no. 379

2016 Porter Prize Shortlist

March 2016, no. 379


                  'Call one thing another's name long enough, it will answer'
                                                                                                    Jane Hirshfield

Eyelets of cosmos, anaemic stars, only gazing in words. That parrot
bush called budjan with its supernova of stamens, spurious and sacral
Initiate of glinting conversation with long-beaked cockatoo and bee

Hunger is the dugite resigned to regurgitating a blue tongued lizard
Its shingle back unpierced as it swings away, reefing its legs past a dead
raven unsettled by maggots, used condoms, me taking a photo

A man searching the swamp for a hook-up on Grindr scans my hand
for a phone, his vulnerability touching as he passes soundlessly
Keens into the whiteness of paperbark trunks and anonymity

I've been walking, barely felt Prickly Moses exposing flecks of blood
to garnet on my arms in the heat, which kindles this wildness in me
I can't name and meet each time as a stranger, forfeited to sleep

My suitcase yawning at the foot of his bed, him spilling cunning lines across
new sheets as the mirror trembles with a passing train. I know the shame
of wanting him to call me, before distrust stakes its claim on memory

There are worse things than fire. Thriving, a tingle tree, heartwood burnt out
centuries ago, shelters a school tour from a deluge in its still-black bethel
One girl lingering, is moved on by a teacher yelling that she won't drown

How it all turns in and swallows, thinking in unison as everything is
knotted, from trees to throats. Swelling panicle of micro orchid trodden
down to mandibles of ants, their mass smothering a flinch of baby bird

Scudding dragonfly plucked from the wind by dazzle of bee-eater, knows
catastrophe. Congested telepathy of letters nesting on my desk, a ruin
of truth, part flight, breezing devotion through an open door

Here with my son, mantising gooseberries to our mouths in undergrowth
A thrall of silvereyes quicken the fig as a neighbour spits words at her dog
Galahs shear sunflowers above us. Before it rains, I'm burying the seeds


Amanda Joy


Lament for 'Cape' Kennedy

Djirritch Djirritch
the black and white
willy wagtail
fate's messenger
did not tell me you'd gone
but your cousin phoned.

Kids walking to school
found you
flat on your back
on the pavement frost
eyes open
looking for that emu in the Milky Way
but the coroner saw
no evidence of foul play.

I saw you leave
the Dimboola Hotel at closing time
with half a slab
the doctor warned against
with your clapped out guts
at only half three score and ten
but your missus wouldn't let you see your son
what else was there to do.

They haven't taken down the pictures
plastered on your bedroom walls
of Elle Macpherson smiling down
over and over again
and no one will stay there for a while
but you pissed yourself laughing
when the skies opened on your funeral
in the middle of the worst drought
in a century.

I remember you skinny and shy
beanie, five days growth and
'fuck you' painted on the uppers of your boots
taking me up the river
to show me the Bullitch
bent over with age
with the footholes
chopped out by your great uncles
climbing high for honey
and on the other side
the scar from where they'd peeled off a canoe.

No foul play?
What about the feller
shot by the Namatji squatter
not far from where they built the mission church?
What about Dick-a-Dick
left in Sydney to walk home
after the first real Ashes tour?
What about Uncle Nyuk
run down in his horse and cart
by the publican drunk and driving home?
What about Vicky and Bubbles
farmed out to Namatji families
who tried and failed to make them white?
What about the bosses in Canberra now
whose law won't recognise
your lore along the river?

Your bag of bones rots in a cheap coffin
in Dimboola cemetery
while you roam around Lake Wirregrin
waiting for it to fill again
for the Beal to blossom and seed
and for the black and white cockatoos
to fly the same way.


Campbell Thomson


Rage to order

insert here: dark joke about sharks (keep swimming or they die)
cruising around the apartment    something always in her hand
from here to there, returning:      every wayward thing
                                                            needing her to find its home

idle, idle, wedge-edge of panic     polishing itself
she is easy to dismiss, is difficult, elegant

too, demanding, too

in the house
of self, she is the sleeper
                                              cell, rogue

sharp whir, levitating
mission: eradication

all the edges singing

all the clean all the blade, only the everything there, and not
                                                                                                              the not-

o darling see this bed I have made you,
                                                                          so white

what she was, under that tree, stack of books
at hand, was lonely (sole, not tragic, still:)
only, clear gone, tumbling
                                                into pages

everything needed her

and meanwhile, back to the cells, doing their job
perhaps a bit too well: look at them shine, O –

if foreign: eradicate
if possibly foreign: no chances
if only
                                                         O to be
perfect                 clear                   shot through
                                                                                  all silence in the piercing light

because she read Plato at a tender age
because it feels like fixing
because if she does what they expect they will leave her alone
because the right slant of light
because something to push against

because annihilation

some pure beauty some glacier singing

literally, no metaphorically, no literally

{if in doubt, eradicate.     if skin, if swell, if possible
invader, encompass, wall off, flood
to inflame ::


                                             better safe – }

than what? then
what? Some slip

past the bracket-gates, then –


Lisa Gluskin Stonestreet


Dan Disney poem full cropped take two


Dan Disney


Anne Elvey Poem cropped


Anne Elvey

You May Also Like

Comments (26)

  • Unlike most literary prizes, where the author’s identity is already known, because the work has been published in book form, our three prizes (for new work) are totally anonymous. Judges are not informed who was shortlisted until the winner has been chosen. Editor
    Posted by Peter Rose
    21 April 2016
  • I couldn't have said it better than Sue Goss and Barry Collier.
    Posted by Donna Best
    21 April 2016
  • Did the judges know the identity of the authors before they read the poems?
    Posted by R.J.H
    19 April 2016
  • Wow there's some harsh comments here. I wonder how those making them would feel if their poems were up here and others, disappointed at not having placed, let loose on their work.

    I particularly enjoyed Lament for Cape Kennedy by Campbell Thomson. Well done and congratulations to all.
    Posted by Susan Bennett
    06 April 2016
  • Let's all raise a glass to obscurity. After all, that seems to be the major criteria for making it to the short-list. You really have to wonder how something that appears to be a cut-and-paste job from a series of emails (a la Mr Disney's effort) can count as poetry. You also have ponder how an effort that looks like someone hit the space bar on the keyboard too often (Ms Elvey's ) makes the grade.
    I agree with Ms Bradie, Ms Nugent and Ms Ross. The latter encapsulates it in one hit: "whatever happened to poetry?"
    If the aim in giving these poems the big tick is to make such a wonderful form of literature completely inaccessible to the vast majority of Australians then we are doing a damn good job!
    Posted by Barry Collier
    03 April 2016
  • Truly, truly, where is the poetry in any of the above winning entries? What sort of depths have judges sunk to - to be able to actually include these entries in a Poetry Competition.
    Just forget the beautiful word Poetry and ask for a person to put down on paper their rhymeless ramblings and ruminations that for some reason or other seem to mean something to them - I wonder just exactly what word could be used to categorise them - much less judge them. And please don't say "this is 2016". In any century there is true beauty and magic in true Poetry. There is none in any of the above. Patricia Charter
    Posted by Patricia Charter
    01 April 2016
  • Maybe you need two prizes? One for poet's poets and one for everybody else's poets. The really clever stuff (like the last three of that above) has all been done before like TS Eliot. What is even more clever is to be accessible. The first two are genuinely good, new and prize-worthy. (I think).
    Posted by Sue Goss
    21 March 2016
  • Great! Once again a batch of soporific, narcoleptic, music-less musings selected because somebody deemed them aesthetically pleasing on the page.
    Posted by Barbara Bradie
    13 March 2016
  • Very good poem the one by Campbell Thomson. To my opinion it deserved to have the first award. I can't say I am afraid the same for the others.
    I participated in the competition, I lost, may be my participation it was worth in order to read the other winner poems.
    Posted by Despina Katsirea
    13 March 2016
  • Congratulations to Amanda Joy. Good news!
    Posted by Anthony Lawrence
    11 March 2016

Leave a comment

If you are an ABR subscriber, you will need to sign in to post a comment.

If you have forgotten your sign in details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to ABR Comments. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.