When the Porter Prize closed in October, we had received 1,329 entries from thirty-three different countries, our largest field to date (last year we received 1,046 entries). Our four valiant judges – John Hawke (Chair and ABR’s Poetry Editor), Lachlan Brown, John Kinsella, and A. Frances Johnson (winner of the 2020 Porter Prize) – have now completed the judging, and we thank them warmly.
None of the five featured poets has been shortlisted in the Porter Prize before. They are Danielle Blau (USA), Y.S. Lee (Canada), Jazz Money (NSW), Sara M. Saleh (NSW), and Raisa Tolchinsky (USA).
Meanwhile, the ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize will open on January 20, with a closing date of May 3. There are three cash prizes: $6,000, $4,000, and $2,500. Full details appear on page 21. As always, we thank ABR Patron Ian Dickson for enabling us to present the Jolley Prize in this lucrative form.
Gregory Day – joint winner of the inaugural Jolley Prize in 2011 – is the recipient of the 2020 Patrick White Literary Award for his achievements as a novelist, poet, and short story and nature writer. The Award, which was first presented in 1974 (to Christina Stead) and which is now worth $15,000, goes to an author who has made an ongoing contribution to Australian literature but who may not have received adequate recognition.
In their citation, the judges – Felicity Plunkett, Julieanne Lamond, and Michelle de Kretser – remarked:
Day is alert to movement across time as well as across space. The past is never far from the present in his work. It manifests as a reckoning with colonial violence and an honouring of Indigenous experience; as an interest in local stories and histories; and as an engagement with twentieth-century turning points … Day’s work is marked by both lyricism and intelligence. His fiction is realist in its depiction of character and precise natural detail but can slip the bounds of realism without strain. These features, taken together with Day’s thematic concerns, make his fiction truly distinctive – there is no one else writing like him in Australia. His novels, poems and essays are like parts in music: independent, yet coming together to form a grand whole.
We got wonderfully carried away on the cover of our December edition, listing Sheila Fitzpatrick as one of the contributors to our Books of the Year feature. Unfortunately, Sheila – who has recently moved to the Australian Catholic University as professor of history – didn’t have time to contribute this year. We can only attribute our lapse to the fact that we’d like to publish Sheila Fitzpatrick in every issue of ABR. She is unmistakably in this issue, with a review of David Nasaw’s book The Last Million: Europe’s displaced persons from World War to Cold War. Prolific as ever, Sheila has a new book herself. Black Inc. will publish White Russians, Red Peril: A Cold War history of migration to Australia in April 2021.
Books of the Year
Contributors to Books of the Year emphatically included Beejay Silcox and Billy Griffiths. In a recent ABR podcast with Peter Rose, they discussed some of their nominations and looked ahead to 2021 highlights. From the January–February issue, the Editor interviews Jon Piccini, whose review of two new books on the Palace Letters is in the current issue.
Don’t miss the ABR Podcast, which appears each Wednesday. Listen and subscribe by searching for ‘The ABR Podcast’ on your favourite podcast app.
Mungo MacCallum (1941–2020)
Mungo MacCallum, the legendary, fearless political commentator who died on December 9 aged seventy-eight, wrote for ABR several times over the years. His first appearance was in the fourth issue of the second series (September 1978). In his review of journalist Don Whitington’s posthumously released work Strive to Be Fair: An unfinished autobiography, MacCallum explained that the book’s title came from a remark by one of Whitington’s editors: ‘There is no such thing as a good objective journalist. If you are not sensitive enough to feel for your subject, to have a point of view, to suffer joy or agony or sympathy about a story you are covering, you will never be a good journalist. Don’t strive to be objective. Strive to be fair.’ MacCallum described this advice as ‘eminently sound’.
MacCallum’s articles and commentary were published widely. His books included The Oxford Book of Australian Political Anecdotes (1994), Mungo: The man who laughs (2001), and The Mad Marathon (2013).
A week before his death, MacCallum announced his retirement from journalism due to increasing ill-health. Writing for the website Pearls and Irritations, he said: ‘I am sorry to cut and run – it has sometimes been a hairy career, but I hope a productive one and always fun. My gratitude for all your participation … Thank you and good night.’
Melbourne Poets Union
Melbourne Poets Union (MPU) has two smart new series of chapbooks: the Blue Tongue Poets and the Red-bellied Poets. The former is devoted to poets who have previously published at least one collection; the latter to those who have yet to publish a collection. The seven poets are Linda Adair, Kevin Brophy, Jeltje Fanoy, Dominique Hecq, Michael J. Leach, David Munro, and Ouyong Yu. The chapbooks, which cost $25 each, are available from MPU.
MPU, a not-for-profit organisation, has been supporting poetry since 1977. In a recent Book Talk article, Tina Giannoukos, editor-in-chief of MPU, writes about the special challenges of creating the new series during a pandemic.
Prime Minister’s Literary Awards
The Prime Minister’s Literary Awards were announced in December, offering welcome and lucrative recognition to several authors in what was an unusually disrupted year. Omar Sakr’s The Lost Arabs won the poetry award, while Tara June Winch’s novel The Yield won for fiction. The Non-Fiction award was shared by Christina Thompson’s Sea People and Songspirals by the Gay’wu Group of Women. Jasmin Seymour’s Cooee Mittigar won the Children’s Literature award, while Helen Fox won the Young Adult Literature Award for How it Feels to Float. The winners each receive $80,000; shortlisted authors $5,000 each.