Poetry and memoir win at Victorian Premier's Literary Awards

1 February 2019
Associate Professor Kate Lilley has taken out the Victorian Premier's Literary Award for Poetry for her collection Tilt, while Dr Omid Tofighian's translation of Behrouz Boochani's memoir garnered two prizes.

Associate Professor Kate Lilley from the Department of English has taken out the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Poetry for her collection Tilt, published by Vagabond Press last year.

Tilt follows an itinerary of attachment and loss, possession and dispossession 1970s Sydney discussing the Green Bans, Juanita Nielsen, the wharves of Woolloomooloo in an exploration of place and identity.

Tilt book cover image

Tilt (Vagabond Press, 2018) by poet and academic Kate Lilley


Associate Professor Kate Lilley, who is the Director of the University’s Creative Writing program, said:

“I’m thrilled to receive this award, and in such great company. The fact that the Victorian Premier’s Awards are so politically progressive makes it extra special.

“It’s a very lively time for poetry and much of the credit for that must go to dedicated small press publishers who deserve all the support they can get. My publisher, Michael Brennan, started Vagabond Press at this university and has built a wonderful list. I’m immensely grateful to him.

It’s a very lively time for poetry and much of the credit for that must go to dedicated small press publishers who deserve all the support they can get.
Associate Professor Kate Lilley

Tilt works on things and ideas that … affect the social and personal lives of most people, things like gender, sexuality, violence and power, and it does without recourse to dull or didactic writing," says poet and critic Ali Jane Smith.

Associate Professor Lilley has published two books of poetry, Versary (Salt) and Ladylike (University of Western Australia Press), two chapbooks, Round Vienna and Realia (both Vagabond Press), as well as editing a selection of her mother’s poetry, Dorothy Hewett: Selected Poems (UWAP). She is the poetry editor of Southerly.

The Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards were inaugurated by the Victorian Government in 1985 to honour Australian writing. The winners of the main suite of awards each receive $25,000. The winners of the seven award categories go on to contest the overall Victorian Prize for Literature, worth an additional $100,000. This is the single most valuable literary award in the country.

No Friend but the Mountains (Penguin, 2018), translated by Dr Omid Tofighian

Dr Omid Tofighian, Honorary Research Associate in the Department of Philosophy, had a bittersweet moment at the awards ceremony when he took to the stage to accept two prizes on behalf of his friend Behrouz Boochani, who wrote No Friend but the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison, published by Picador Australia, which took out the Prize for Non-Fiction as well as the overall Victorian Prize for Literature.

Dr Tofighian worked with Mr Boochani – who is detained on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island as an asylum-seeker – on the translation of his book by text message and WhatsApp, laboriously translating it English. 

Mr Boochani, a Kurdish-Iranian journalist, was not able to be present at the ceremony but Dr Tofighian sent his deepest thanks at the acknowledgement.

“I was honoured to work on this brave, beautiful and uncompromising work of resistance, translating it from Farsi, to English.

“He created this literary masterpiece by weaving together stories of lived experience, philosophical rumination, psychoanalytical examination, political commentary, myth, epic and folklore. His work is truly deserving of this stellar recognition and we will continue the struggle for change,” said Dr Tofighian.

Hero image at top of page L-R: Victoria Hannan, Ezekiel Kwaymullina, Kate Lilley, Kendall Feaver, Kim Scott, Bri Lee, Elise Valmorbida, Omid Tofighian and Ambelin Kwaymullina. Photo: Hannah Koelmeyer

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