Judges’ overall comments about the Blake Poetry Prize 2020

Julie Janson: “It was an honour to be asked to judge this prestigious Poetry Award. The large number of excellent entries made it very difficult to make decisions about the winner, highly commended and short list. The range of subject matter was vast, from works that mourned our burnt country with throbbing sadness and poems that celebrated passion and love of family and the joy of living. It was challenging to read and judge poems that reflected the cultural diversity of Australia’s poets. I offer congratulations to all poets who entered. Great to see the art of poetry being celebrated by so many talented people.”

Lachlan Brown: “It was an honour to be part of the judging panel for the Blake poetry prize this year. During times of chaos and hardship, it is even more important to consider what poetic responses may offer us in terms of emotional comfort and spiritual consolation (or perhaps how they might register emotional discomfort or spiritual provocation!). As I read this year’s entries I was struck by the number of poetic responses that were spiritually rich, poetically diverse, and technically astute. This year’s Blake Prize entries contained ekphrastic meditations, responses to ageing and mortality, re-imaginings of the Australian landscape. Many poems considered recent ecological events like the Australian bushfires, or the current pandemic and provided moving and complex responses. There were so many strong poems representing such a diverse range of spiritual positions and experiences that it was extremely difficult to choose a long-list, let alone narrowing things down to a shortlist and winner. The Blake Prize shortlist, along with all the entries, should alert us to the vibrant ways that spirituality is folded into poetic expression.”

Julie Watts: “The Blake Poetry Prize has always been held in high regard. It is an important prize with its focus on spirituality, the quality that embodies the human spirit. I believe it is of great importance to recognise and give a space to this aspect of our humanness, especially in an increasing secular world where the understanding of spirituality is broadening and dystopian feeling deepening. It is even more important in the aftermath of calamity: the terrible fires of 2019 and this time of pandemic, to acknowledge our spiritual nature. It is in this that resilience, hope and transformation reside.

In this year's submissions there were many poems about struggle: grief, disillusionment, tragedy, loss but there was also hope and joy scattered throughout the collection. There was humour, and sensuality and of course spirituality in its varied expressions: the flight of a Kingfisher, the arrival of hope after grief and the complexity of human connection.”

The Shortlist

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