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2023 Helen Anne Bell Poetry Bequest Award shortlist announced

13 March 2024
Join us as we announce the winner of Australia’s richest poetry prize
The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences is delighted to announce the shortlist for the Helen Anne Bell Poetry Bequest Award for 2023. The winner will be announced by Professor Lisa Adkins, Dean, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the award ceremony on Thursday 21 March 2024.

The biennial Helen Anne Bell Poetry Bequest Award is funded by the generous bequest of a former student of the University – Helen Anne Bell. This year the award offers an increased prize of $40,000 for a collection of poems by an Australian woman poet and its publication by Vagabond Press. This is the fifth biennial award for an unpublished poetry manuscript by an Australian woman made under the bequest, and is now the richest poetry prize in Australia.

The 2023 panel of three esteemed, award-winning poets and academics, Cassandra Atherton, Jeanine Leane and Maxine Beneba Clarke have selected a shortlist of four book length manusucripts by female writers about any aspect of Australian culture.

"Reading for a literary prize always feels like a privilege – an opportunity to see into the minds of a cross-section of Australian creatives, and experience their preoccupations, concerns, lives and loves. Recurring themes this year included mental health, the environment, intergenerational family relationships and the natural world."

The judges would like to thank every poet who entered the 2024 Helen Anne Bell Poetry Prize. Notable, however, was a distinct lack of diversity amongst the entries, particularly from First Nations poets. We commend the organisers on the compilation of such a diverse judging panel, and would like to encourage future dialogue about how encouragement to enter this award might be conveyed to a wider range of poets in future. It is crucial to ensure that entries to this important prize reflect the true range of voices we know the Australian poetry world has to offer.

About the shortlist

Photo of Angela Gardner

Photo by Joachim Froese.

Angela Gardner, Slippage

Angela is a Welsh Australian writer and visual artist. Her verse novel The Sorry Tale of the Mignonette, (Shearsman), was shortlisted for Wales Book of the Year, 2022 and a UK National Poetry Day recommendation. She has six poetry collections including Some Sketchy Notes on Matter, Recent Work Press, 2020 shortlisted for the Dorothy Hewett Award and the Thomas Shap-cott Prize-winning Parts of Speech, (UQP, 2007). Recent poems are forthcoming/published in The Yale Review, West Branch, Image (USA); Poetry Salzburg Review (Austria); SoftBlow (Singapore); Blackbox Manifold, The Long Poem (UK); Southerly and Cordite (Australia). She graduated MAVA from Queensland College of Art and her visual work is held in international public collections. She is currently based in Ireland.

Image of Anna Jacobson

Photo by Anna Jacobson.

Anna Jacobson, All Rage Blaze Light

Anna is an award-winning writer and artist from Meanjin (Brisbane). Her poetry collection Amnesia Findings (UQP) won the 2018 Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize. Anna’s second illustrated poetry collection, Anxious in a Sweet Store was published with Upswell in 2023. She holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Creative Writing from the Queensland University of Technology. Anna’s memoir How to Knit a Human is forthcoming with NewSouth Publishing in 2024. Her poetry chap-book The Last Postman (Vagabond Press, 2018) is part of the deciBels 3 series. 

Photo of Holly Friedlander Liddicoat

Holly Friedlander Liddicoat, Doghouse

Holly is a poet, editor, DJ and performer who has previously been published in the Australian Poetry Anthology, Cordite, Overland, Rabbit, Southerly, The Lifted Brow and Voiceworks, among others. She has performed and presented at Sydney Fringe Festival, Emerging Writers’ Festival and National Young Writers’ Festival and has edited poetry for Voice-works and the UTS Writers’ Anthology. Rabbit Poetry published her first collection CRAVE, which was shortlisted for the 2019 Mary Gilmore Award. In 2022 she undertook a Bundanon residency as one half of spoken word/dance music outfit jobfit. Many of the poems in "Doghouse" share their origins with jobfit’s three releases, out via Pure Space.

Image of Svetlana Sterlin

Svetlana Sterlin, If Movement Were a Language

Svetlana writes poetry, prose, and screenplays in Meanjin (Brisbane). Her writing has recently been recognised in the 2023 Richell Prize and the State Library of Queensland Young Writers Award. She has poetry and short fiction in Island, Westerly, takah?, Meanjin, Cordite, and elsewhere. Svetlana also edits with Voiceworks. A swimming coach and former swimmer, she makes most things about swimming, including her online publication swim meet lit mag.

About the judges

Cassandra is an Australian multi prize-winning scholar, critic, and prose poet whose work is widely anthologised nationally and internationally. She is a global expert on prose poetry and ekphrastic poetry and coined the term ‘dark poetry’ for poetry that attempts to imagine, explore, or reanimate a dark event. Cassandra has published more than thirty critical and creative books. She is one of the longest-standing poetry editors of Westerly Magazine and is series editor of the Spineless Wonders microlit anthologies.

Her own imprint is Farflung Editions at the US publisher MadHat Press, and is the co-host of the international zoom event, LitBalm: An Interactive Livestream Reading Series. She is Professor of Writing and Literature at Deakin University where she received the Faculty Research award for Excellence in Postgraduate Supervision and the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for University Teacher of the Year.

Jeanine is a Wiradjuri writer, poet and academic from south-west New South Wales. Her first volume of poetry, Dark Secrets After Dreaming: A.D. 1887–1961 won the 2010 Scanlon Prize for Indigenous Poetry and her first novel, Purple Threads, won the David Unaipon Award for an unpublished Indigenous writer in 2010. Her poetry and short stories have been published in Hecate: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Women’s Liberation, Journal of the European Association for Studies of Australia, Journal for the Association of Australian Literary Studies, Australian Poetry Journal, Antipodes, Overland, Best Australian Poems, Lifted Brow, Southerly and Australian Book Review.

In 2017, Jeanine was the winner of the University of Canberra Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Poetry Prize, and she has twice been the winner of the Oodgeroo Noonuccal Poetry Prize in 2017 and 2019. In 2019 Jeanine was the recipient of the Red Room Poetry Fellowship. She has published widely in Aboriginal literature, writing otherness and creative non-fiction poetry and prose. Jeanine is the recipient of an Australia Research Council grant on Aboriginal literature: Aboriginal Writing: Shaping the literary and cultural history of Australia, since 1988. She holds a doctorate in Australian literature and Aboriginal representation, and is an Associate Professor teaching creative writing and Aboriginal literature at the University of Melbourne.

Maxine was born and raised in the Sydney suburb of Kellyville. Her mother was an actress of Guyanese heritage and her father an academic of Jamaican descent. She has said: "Cousins, aunts, and uncles of mine have settled all over the world: including in Germany, America, Switzerland, Australia, England, and Barbados. Mine is a complex migration history that spans four continents and many hundreds of years: a history that involves loss of land, loss of agency, loss of language, and loss, transformation, and reclamation of culture.”

She holds a Bachelor of Creative Arts and law degree from the University of Wollongong. The author of the ABIA and Indie award-winning short fiction collection Foreign Soil and the critically acclaimed memoir The Hate Race, her poetry collection Carrying the World won the 2017 Victorian Premier's Literary Award for Poetry. She writes for The Saturday Paper. Poetry is her first love.

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