The Blake Poetry Prize challenges Australian poets to explore the spiritual and religious in a new work of 100 lines or less.

From 2017 Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre in collaboration with WestWords, has delivered The Blake Poetry Prize as a biennial event.

The Blake Poetry Prize is an aesthetic means of exploring the wider experience of spirituality with the visionary imagining of contemporary poets. The Blake Prize takes its name from William Blake, a poet and artist of undoubted genius, who integrated religious and artistic content in his work. The Blake Poetry Prize challenges contemporary poets of disparate styles to explore the spiritual and religious in a new work of 100 lines or less.

The Blake Poetry Prize is strictly non-sectarian. The entries are not restricted to works related to any faith or any artistic style, but all poems entered must have a recognisable religious or spiritual integrity and demonstrate high degrees of artistic and conceptual proficiency.

This year the Prize attracted over 500 entries from across Australia and internationally from countries including Germany, Hong Kong, India, Thailand, New Zealand, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States. Below you can read the judges’ comments, the poems and bios of the poets.

The winners of the 67th Blake Prize and the Blake Poetry Prize will be announced on the 12th of March 2022. Click here to book your FREE ticket to the Winners Announcement event.

The Shortlist:

  • I Will Never: Jennifer Harrison
  • Surfing Again: Simone King
  • Pencils from Heaven: Kirsten Krauth
  • Rogue Objects: Gershon Maller
  • Flat Rock, September: Mark Tredinnick
  • Everything Must Go: Meredith Wattison

Judges’ overall comments:

Within the tyranny of the pandemic, a poem is in a battle for the dilemma of what is the real or virtual world. Our poetic soul and spiritual ink are not written on a blank and dry page. The poets who submitted their work all found ways to navigate and express an intimate journey. They were refreshing and enjoyable. Reading them was learning that we can still share the dreams of humanity.

I take my hat off to every poet who overcame the fear, loss and grief of a worldwide pandemic to share their light with others. So many of the poems submitted were driven by empathy for others, for a world in crisis, for years lost to the invisible presence of the virus. It reminded me of the immense power of literature to spread hope and resilience, across the entire wounded world. Thanks to all poets for this great achievement.

Reading the work of these poets is to understand that metaphor and simile are guidelines, not a GPS screen defining directions. Predictable notions of the spiritual have been given a major overhaul, and the results are compelling and rewarding.

The Blake Poetry Prize Shortlisted Finalists

I Will Never: Jennifer Harrison

Read the poem here

Jennifer Harrison has published eight poetry collections, most recently Anywhy (Black Pepper 2018). She is currently Chair of the World Psychiatry Association’s Section for Art and Psychiatry.

Judges’ comments
Filled with strong emotions and grief the poet’s deep voice is a lament for the world and for how relationships break down both in the virtual and the real, within ourselves and with nature.

Combining intense emotion with technical grace and skill, this poem stands out for its willingness to embrace loss and beauty simultaneously, and in so doing offers us a template for hope in challenging times.

This poem bears witness to the griefs of our age – the pandemic, the loss of bees and trees, zoom funerals, the collective experience of loss. It is unpretentious, raw, truthful and strong – and somehow threaded with light, even as the world burns.

Surfing Again: Simone King 

Read the poem here

Simone King is a poet, writer and mother. Her poems can be found in Rabbit, Cordite, Plumwood Mountain and Right Now. Simone co-edited What we Carry: Poetry on Childbearing, Recent Work Press, 2021.

Judges’ comments
This is a graceful and moving account of coming to terms with loss. The language is economical, elegant and authentic. It does not shelter behind the opacities of abstract or elevated language, but rather conveys bravely, and with great vulnerability, the lived truth of loss and of honouring the dead.

Creating life within its language this poem is a wonderful deep breath. I wonder if Marquez’s love may be a reminiscence of returning from his journeys into loneliness and the loss of a loved one.
This prose poem successfully and indelibly creates a moving story of travel, loss and homage to friendship using language that avoids sentimentality yet embraces raw emotion. A fine example of how restraint can be luminous and lasting.

Pencils from Heaven: Kirsten Krauth

Read the poem here

Kirsten Krauth is a writer based in Castlemaine. Her second novel Almost a Mirror was shortlisted for the 2021 SPN Book of the Year Award and the Penguin Literary Prize, and named in the Best 20 Australian Books of 2020 by The Guardian. She is currently working on the Almost a Mirror podcast, a mashup of pop and post-punk, fiction and documentary, where every episode is sparked by a song –  and a festival show with musicians that will be touring in 2022.

Judges’ comments
This poem rewards via its tense, clipped language that paradoxically opens and invites us into a generous narrative where rites of passage and intense friendships are explored.

A well-crafted and delightful poem, which grounds high spiritual truths firmly in everyday experience. Clever line breaks carry the internal rhythms of this poem without the need for conventional punctuation. The language is candid and direct, relatable – bearing witness to our own time and the many images which accompany our lives.

A poem of intense rhyme and the rhythm of everyday life and friendship.  A song of spiritual connection between earth and heaven painted with the colours of the poet’s heart.

Rogue Objects: Gershon Maller

Read the poem here

Gershon Maller is the author of two poetry collections. His work has appeared in scholarly and literary journals in Australia, the US and Europe. His doctorate explored the poetry of Wallace Stevens.

Judges’ comments
It is an unusual journey to read the abstraction of this poem.  The poet gives us key, galaxy and God to find the structures and the rhythms that open up the suggested and confused spaces of his poetic voice.

Adventurous, risk-taking and using edgy syntax and scenes that appear as though via peripheral vision, Rogue Objects is a potent reminder of poetry’s ability to arrest our attention with suggestion, rather than immediate accessibility.

The voice here is unusual and adventurous ­– truthful to the inner vision of the poet with all the risk that entails. The poem is multilayered, abstract and strange. With every reading more levels of meaning emerge. Its images are of a vast and miraculous world, something beyond the limits of language, but partly glimpsed–the way one might glimpse a football field through breaks in a hedge.

Flat Rock, September: Mark Tredinnick

Read the poem here

Mark Tredinnick OAM is the author of twenty works of poetry and prose. His five collections of poetry include most recently A Gathered Distance and Walking Underwater. Mark won the 2008 Blake Poetry Prize. He lives in Gundungurra Land.

Judges’ comments
Guided by the influence of poets such as Robert Adamson and Charles Wright, this poem unwinds into celebrations of the natural world where language is map, compass and journal.

Embracing love, memory and joy this beautiful poem is placed within the poetic rhythm of today’s world, and its dialogues.
A beautiful poem elegantly crafted in couplets. The language is musical and reverent, paying homage to our literary forbears, replete with evocative, shining images.

Everything Must Go: Meredith Wattison

Read the poem here

Meredith Wattison has lived on Dharawal Country since 2000. A poet and essayist, she has published seven books between 1989 and 2020. She received the Gwen Harwood Prize in 2017 for the title poem The Munchian O.

Judges’ comments
A poem that invites us to be still, and pay attention while things fall apart on the edges. Using tight, clever line breaks and gorgeous images, we are the beneficiaries of the poet’s ability to craft magic from the commonplace.

This is an elegantly rendered thank you to the real worlds, and the literary worlds, that nurture us. Its language is graceful and economical, beautifully structured and rhythmic. Through familiar images this poem reminds us that we construct ourselves, every day, from the impressions we surround ourselves with.

A great invitation to enjoy poetry in this time of change, to celebrate that we are alive.

The Blake Poetry Prize judges

Judith Nangala Crispin

Judith is a poet and visual artist of Bpangerang descent, and is currently poetry editor of The Canberra Times. Judith is also the author of two additional published collections of poems, The Myrrh-Bearers (Puncher & Wattmann, 2015), and The Lumen Seed (Daylight Books, 2017). She was the winner of the 2020 Blake Poetry Prize.

Anthony Lawrence

Anthony has published seventeen books of poems and a novel. His most recent collection is Ken (Life Before Man, 2021). His books and individual poems have won many awards, including The Blake Poetry Prize, The Prime Ministers Literary Award for Poetry, The Kenneth Slessor Poetry Award and the Judith Wright Calanthe Award. He is a Senior Lecturer at Griffith University, where he teaches Creative Writing.

Juan Garrido-Salgado

Juan Garrido-Salgado immigrated to Australia from Chile in 1990, fleeing the regime that burned his poetry and imprisoned and tortured him for his political activism. He has published eight books of poetry and his work has been widely translated. He has also translated works by a number of leading Australian & Aboriginal poets into Spanish, including five Aboriginal poets for the anthology Espejo de Tierra/ Earth Mirror (2008). With Steve Brock and Sergio Holas, Garrido-Salgado also translated into English the Trilingual Mapuche Poetry Anthology. The book When I was Clandestine was part of a poetical tour at the Granada International Poetry Festival in Nicaragua, Mexico and Cuba (La Habana City) in 2019. Hope Blossoming in Their Ink ( Puncher & Wattman) in 2020. Three of his poems were published at in May 2021.