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by Australian Book Review
January-February 2023, no. 450


by Australian Book Review
January-February 2023, no. 450

Summer greetings 

Welcome to the January–February issue, the 450th in the second series, which began in 1978. We hope you will enjoy the double issue, which opens with a disturbing report about developments in Iran and features a series of articles on politics in Australia and the United States.

Last year, in our eleven issues, we published more than 300 creative writers, scholars, commentators, and freelance critics, seventy-one of them new to the magazine. We look forward to introducing many debutants to ABR readers in 2023. Advancing the work and careers of young writers – and paying them well – remains a priority of this organisation. Everyone associated with ABR wants to thank our 200-plus Patrons. Put simply, you have transformed this magazine, as well as enabling us to increase our payments to writers.  

While on this subject, we encourage others to think about donating to ABR. No one should be in any doubt about the challenges facing small arts organisations – ABR included. We all have access to far too much cogent information about the modest funding of the arts in this country to be complacent about the future. This is a source of increasing concern to the arts sector, and one we will have more to say about in 2023. ABR will only thrive – will only advance its work of six decades – with support from subscribers, donors, philanthropic foundations, and government. 

But now it’s time to take some leave after a busy, rousing year. The office remains open for business nonetheless. We’ll be back with another packed issue in March. 


Porter Prize 

The Peter Porter Poetry Prize, now in its nineteenth year, attracted 1,132 entries, from thirty-four countries. Our three judges – Sarah Holland-Batt (Chair of ABR and an award-winning poet), Des Cowley (poetry publisher and former Rare Books Librarian at the State Library of Victoria), and James Jiang (Assistant Editor of Griffith Review) – have shortlisted these five poems: 

‘Loss-invaded Catalogue’ by Chris Andrews 
‘Running Up That Bill’ by Chris Arnold 
‘Field Notes for an Albatross Palimpsest’ by Michelle Cahill 
‘periferal, fantasmal’ by Dan Disney 
‘Abiquiu, New Mexico’ by Raisa Tolchinsky 
On our website, we list the seventeen poems that comprised the official longlist. There you will also find the judges’ report, including remarks on the five poems. Our judges had this to say about the overall field: 

The judges were pleased to consider a rich and deep field of entries to the Peter Porter Poetry Prize this year, reflecting both the variety and strength of contemporary poetry, and many of its stylistic and thematic concerns. This year’s entries reflected a pronounced interest in climate issues and contemporary geopolitics, with a number of poems touching on recent floods and bushfires, species extinction, and the war in Ukraine. Many entries veered towards the experimental, and there were fewer lyric poems, love poems, and poems explicitly interested in established forms than in previous years. The outstanding poems on this year’s shortlist share an interest in political concerns refracted through their expression in language, including philology and etymology, and the power of listing, cataloguing, and naming. The five shortlisted poems engage with pressing subjects such as mining, colonial place naming, abortion, environmental degradation, and the relationship between the human and non-human worlds, but do so with subtlety, wit, and linguistic charge, rather than didacticism. Curiously, a taxonomic impulse manifests in several of the shortlisted poems, which probe the inflections, origins, and currency of words. 

The shortlisted poems appear in this issue (starting on page thirty). Our five poets also introduce and read their poems on the ABR Podcast. Meanwhile, admirers of Peter Porter won’t want to miss our new ABR Podcast tribute to his life and work. Morag Fraser – principal supporter of the Porter Prize for many years, and Porter’s biographer – introduces the podcast. Readers include Gig Ryan, John Kinsella, Judith Beveridge, and Andrew Taylor (who also supports the Porter Prize). 

This year’s Porter Prize ceremony will take place via Zoom on Thursday, 19 January (6pm). This is a free event and all are welcome but bookings are necessary. To register your interest, please RSVP to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; you will then receive the Zoom link on the morning of the event. 


Prizes galore 

To give people more time to polish their entries after the silly season, the Calibre Essay Prize will now close at midnight on 15 January 2023, a two-week extension.

The ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize will open on 23 January, with a closing date of 24 April. The total prize money this year is $12,500 (once again there are three prizes). Full details will appear on our website soon. 


The PMLAs in Launceston

The winners of the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards were announced in Launceston on 13 December, the party temporarily relocating to Design Tasmania’s internal courtyard when the opening of lunch ovens excited a fire alarm. In the absence of the prime minister and the arts minister, Susan Templeman, Special Envoy for the Arts, announced that the Fiction winner was Red Heaven, by Nicolas Rothwell. The Non-fiction winner was Rogue Forces: An explosive insiders’ account of Australian SAS war crimes in Afghanistan by Mark Willacy. The Australian History winner was Semut: The untold story of a secret Australian operation in WWII Borneo by Christine Helliwell. The Children’s literature winner was Mina and the Whole Wide World by Sherryl Clark and Briony Stewart, and the Young Adult literature winner was The Gaps by Leanne Hall. ABR congratulates all the winning and shortlisted authors. 


Jill Jolliffe (1945–2022)

ABR was saddened to learn of the death of author–journalist Jill Jolliffe on 2 December. Jill, who was seventy-seven, wrote for the magazine a number of times between 2004 and 2012. Her many books included East Timor: National and socialism (1978) – her first – and Balibo (2009), probably her most influential work.  

Jill reported on East Timor and other ex-Portuguese colonies, often at considerable risk to her own safety. She was one of two foreign journalists in Dili on 16 October 1975, when five Australian journalists were killed in Balibo by the Indonesian Special Forces. In 2009, Jill wrote in ABR: ‘The evening of the sixteenth is imprinted on my mind.’  

Her work should be imprinted on ours.


Antigone Kefala (1931–2022) 

Poet and prose writer Antigone Kefala, born to Greek parents in Romania, died on 3 December, aged ninety-one. This was just days after she received the Patrick White Award – a fitting distinction for an under-appreciated but distinctive Australian writer. Her first book was The Alien, with Makar Press, in 1973; five other poetry collections followed. Her last, Fragments (2016) won the Judith Wright Calanthe Award. Giramondo published some of her prose works, most recently Late Journals (2022).


Holly Hendry-Saunders 

With commentary and review essays forming a larger component of the magazine, and with a number of prizes and special announcements due in the first half of 2023, ABR welcomes its new publicist: Holly Hendry-Saunders. Holly has a Bachelor of Media from the University of Adelaide and is currently undertaking a Masters of Publishing and Communications at the University of Melbourne. Holly can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  


Robert Adamson (1943–2022) 

As we were going to press, Advances learned of the death of Robert Adamson, one of the amiable lions of Australian poetry and publishing. He was seventy-nine.  

Adamson, who had a genius for book titles, published his first book back in 1970: Canticles on the Skin. There were several Selected Poems along the way: our Editor launched one of them in 2001: Mulberry Leaves. Adamson autobiographical works included Wards of the State (1992) and Inside Out (2004). His many honours included a Banjo Award for his most laurelled collection, The Clean Dark (1989) and the Patrick White Award (2011). His circle of friends and colleagues was extensive, and his imprint is all over the Australian poetry of recent decades. 

ABR will write about that legacy in a coming issue. 

From the New Issue

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