Blake Poetry Prize 2020

About the prize:
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 continues to engage contemporary poets, both national and international, in conversations concerning faith, spirituality, religion and/or belief.

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.

Announcing the 2020 Blake Poetry Prize shortlist

Congratulations to the eight shortlisted poets.

The winner and highly commended will be announced on the 22nd September, watch this space.

This year the Prize attracted over 480 entries from across Australia and internationally from countries including Phillipines, The Netherlands, China and the Republic of Congo. Below you can read the judges’ comments, the poems and bios of the poets. Thank you to all the poets who submitted their poetry, the judges enjoyed reading all. We’d also liked to thank our partners Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre and Liverpool City Council.

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.”

Julie Janson is a playwright, novelist and award winning poet. She is a Burruberongal woman of Darug Aboriginal Nation. Co-recipient of the Oodgeroo Noonuccal Poetry Prize 2016. Winner of the Judith Wright Poetry Prize 2019.

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.”

Lachlan Brown is a senior lecturer in English at Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga. He is the author of Limited Cities (Giramondo, 2012) and Lunar Inheritance (Giramondo, 2017). Lachlan’s poetry has been published in various journals including AntipodesCordite, and Rabbit.

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.”

Julie Watts is a Western Australian writer and has been published in various journals and anthologies. She won The Blake Poetry Prize 2017 and The Dorothy Hewett Award for an Unpublished Manuscript in 2018. Her second poetry collection, Legacy, was published by UWAP in November, 2018.

The Shortlist:

  • History of Sadness: Louise Carter
  • On Finding Charlotte in the Anthropological Record: Judith Crispin
  • X + Dave Drayton
  • Sweeter than Honey: Heather Ellyard
  • Don’t Call Us Dirty: Lou Garcia-Dolnik
  • Parental Guidance: Julie Manning
  • The Rose Noir Poem 5- the Girl in the Souk: Michael Moon
  • Waterlines to a Kingfisher: Peter Ramm

History of Sadness
Louise Carter

This timely poem has ‘smoke choked’ assonance, it is domestic and feminine and the everyday. It bursts with resonances of the rising spirit and our shared grief in 2020. A poem of exhaustion, of trauma upon trauma, communal and personal. The devastation of bushfires, habitats and private griefs are set out in quiet, matter-a-fact couplets, interwoven with a dazed tone of desperation and despair.

Louise Carter is a Sydney-based poet. Her work has appeared in Best Australian Poems (2012 & 2015), Cordite Poetry Review, Meanjin, Westerly, Other Terrain Journal, and Seizure. She is a member of the Writing & Society Research Centre at Western Sydney University.
Read here: Blake2020_History of Sadness_Louise Carter

On Finding Charlotte in the Anthropological Record
Judith Crispin

This Indigenous prose poem reflects upon the complex issue of identity and finding ancestors. The lyrical beauty of the language gently opens out the poignant picture of an Aboriginal great grandmother with her scarred skin and possum cloak. It is a poem about a meeting across boundaries of space and time, weighted with the erasure of identity and song lines, of a legacy of broken families, racism and suddenly, a discovery.

Judith Nangala Crispin is a poet and visual artist, of Bpangerang descent, currently poetry editor of The Canberra Times. She lives in a farmhouse near Lake George with her family, two cats, a fat labrador and a dingo rescued from the desert. Judith has two published collections of poems, The Myrrh-Bearers (Puncher & Wattmann, 2015), and The Lumen Seed (Daylight Books, 2017).
Read here: Blake2020_On finding Charlotte in the Anthropological Record_Judith Crispin

X +
Dave Drayton

This elaborate and intelligently crafted poem oscillates between scherzo and seriousness. Every line is an anagram of the first (a quote from the X-files television program). The poem revels in its status as an example of the kind of feverish monologue that a character like Special Agent Fox Mulder might deliver. So the poem obsessively focuses on the ‘elusive truth’ within a predetermined subsection of language, and yet it simultaneously forces its readers to cast their gaze into programmatic and televisual world of ‘reboots’, ‘alien revues’ and ‘twilit TV’.

Dave Drayton was an amateur banjo player, founding member of the Atterton Academy, Kanganoulipian, and the author of E, UIO, A: a feghoot (Container), A pet per ably-faced kid (Stale Objects dePress), P(oe)Ms (Rabbit), Haiturograms (Stale Objects dePress) and Poetic Pentagons(Spacecraft Press).
Read here: Blake2020_x_Dave Drayton

Sweeter than Honey
Heather Ellyard

A mad jubilant song of praise to life in an era of sadness. It contains spiritual images and Biblical references that resonate. It celebrates the Middle East and the confluence of religions.  Joyful images of licking honey from  the rock.

Heather Ellyard is a hybrid artist-poet, born in Boston USA where she later studied literature and education at Simmons University. She migrated to Australia in 1970, subsequently spent three years in PNG, and then returned to Australia, living in Canberra, Adelaide and Melbourne. She currently lives on a remote property in Central Victoria.

More and more, words are her paint. Her installations cover the walls with poems. She says: it isn’t about paint anymore. I am looking now for still points and lines that are journeys and blackboards for remembering hard poems and jars and generic dolls for holding sorrows, ambiguities and fragments of hope.

Ellyard has held 30 solo exhibitions and has been represented in more than 50 group shows including Paris and Beijing. Her work is in private collections here and abroad and in public collections including the National Gallery of Australia, the Commonwealth Parliament House Collection, the Art Gallery of South Australia, the Jewish Museum of Australia, the University of SA, the University of Canberra and Monash University Medical Centre.

Ellyard has written of art publications since 1985. Her most recent long poem was published in Constellations Volume 7, a Journal of Poetry and Fiction USA.
Read here: Blake2020_Sweeter Than Honey_Heather Ellyard

Don’t Call Us Dirty
Lou Garcia-Dolnik

This poem is ambitious and yet confessionally dense. Its mixture of registers is fresh and startling, as it switches between various subjectivities and viewing positions, running its fingers along the seam between the sacred and profane.

Lou Garcia-Dolnik is a mixed-race Filipinx writer and editor working on unceded Gadigal land. Their work gravitates around the variant matrices of diasporic identity: intergenerational and personal traumas, sexual and gendered violence, gender identity as negotiated within|outside whiteness, and the impossible ambivalence of the non-white diasporic subject as patterned in language.

Their writing has been recognised by numerous international residencies  and prizes, including the Banff Centre’s prestigious Writing Studio program, PRISM International’s Pacific Spirit Poetry Prize and Overland’s Judith Wright Poetry Prize. Their work has been published or is forthcoming in Australian Poetry Journal, Overland, PRISM International, Liminal, Rabbit Poetry Journal, Scum Mag and Voiceworks. A poetry editor for Voiceworks and alumnus of the Banff Centre’s Emerging Writers Intensive, they have held tenure as Editor-in-Chief of Hermes Journal and Prose Team Leader of the Sydney Arts Student Society Creative Journal, ARNA. They are a 2020 Wheeler Centre Hot Desk Fellow.
@lougarciadolnik (twitter)
Read here: Blake2020_Don’t call us dirty_Lou Garcia-Dolnik

Parental Guidance
Julie Manning

An elegy for lost parents, a narrative on remembered family life, a poem on the disconnection of grief and the grappling with its integration.

Julie Manning is a poet, visual artist and lawyer. Her poems have appeared previously in Australian Book Review, Cordite and the HWS Grieve Project poetry anthology.  Her poem ‘Portmanteau’ was long listed in the Vice Chancellors International Poetry Prize 2019, and ‘Constellation of Bees’ was shortlisted in the Peter Porter Poetry Prize 2020.  In 2019 she was awarded the Queensland Poetry Festival Emerging Poet mentorship.  She was featured in Overland Literary Journal as an emerging poet and a suite of four poems published in March 2020.  She lives on Moreton Bay in Brisbane and is currently completing her first book of poetry.
Read here: Blake2020_Parental Guidance_Julie Manning

The Rose Noir Poem 5- the Girl in the Souk
Michael Moon

A homage to Morocco’s perfumed imagery and imagery and lyrical beauty. Echoes of Ramadan and sandalwood,  it is romantic with a touch of the unattainable.

Michael Moon dreamed his name on a desert sojourn, in 1991, inside the omphalos dreaming lands, alongside twenty four established Australian Artists. Michael is a visionary creative, with Mother Nature, in a ‘Mirror Universe Studio’.

Studio QUARRALUNA, where he lives, is inspired from a dream when twelve, living amongst the ‘Darlington Art Community’. This “Climate Questionable Quandong Topia”, is shared with wife Jennifer and son Zearben. This 25 year canvas, boomerangs creations, within the ‘Omniverse Spectrum’… “The We, Inspires Us.”

Quarraluna is “Radical Hope Vision”, an evolving fragrant dreamscape, a new sandalwood oasis, with a hundred acre maze, ten kilometres of walk passages, inland seas and performance stages. This navigational gate, viewable from space, mirages a 50,000 treed, dryland poetic labyrinth.
Read here:  Blake2020_The Girl in the Souk_Michael Moon

Waterlines to a Kingfisher
Peter Ramm

This lyric poem begins grounded by metaphor, ‘the morning river after rain is a mud river’. It then takes flight like the kingfisher itself, its long lines sweeping across the page, dipping in and out of metaphor and stunning image. It is an expansive poem with many striking lines and an epic tone.

Peter Ramm is a poet from Robertson in NSW. He has recently published poems with Plumwood Mountain, Eureka Street Journal and the Red Room Company. As an emerging poet, Peter won the Red Room Company’s 2017 and 2019 Poetry Object competitions and was Highly Commended in the Henry Lawson Memorial and Literary Society competition. He finds inspiration in the landscape and people of South Eastern NSW.
Read here: Blake2020_Waterlines to a Kingfisher_Peter Ramm

Judges for the 2020 Blake Poetry Prize

Julie Janson

Julie grew up in Sydney with an Aboriginal Darug father and English heritage mother. Julie is a Burruberongal woman of Darug Aboriginal Nation. Her writing career began when she was a teacher who wrote and directed plays in remote Northern Territory Aboriginal communities. She took part in traditional Yolngu ceremonies and cultural activities. Julie has received numerous Arts Residencies including the BR Whiting Rome Studio and Asialink residencies in Indonesia. She is a playwright, novelist and award winning poet. Several of her plays were shortlisted for the Patrick White Award and the Griffin Award. Co-recipient of the Oodgeroo Noonuccal Poetry Prize 2016. Winner of the Judith Wright Poetry Prize 2019. Her  recently published novel ‘Benevolence’ (Magabala) has been long listed for the NIB Literary Award  2020.

Lachlan Brown

Lachlan Brown is a senior lecturer in English at Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga. He is the author of Limited Cities (Giramondo, 2012) and Lunar Inheritance (Giramondo, 2017). Lachlan’s poetry has been published in various journals including AntipodesCordite, and Rabbitand has been featured on ABC radio. He has been shortlisted and commended for various poetry prizes including the Newcastle Poetry Prize, the Peter Porter Poetry Prize, the Macquarie Fields Poetry Prize, and the Judith Wright Poetry Prize. Lachlan has previously been involved in judging the Gwen Harwood Poetry Prize and the Mary Gilmore Poetry Prize, and is the chair for the Kenneth Slessor Prize for the 2021 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. Lachlan currently is the vice-president of Booranga Writers Centre in Wagga Wagga and the NSW representative for the Association for the Study of Australian Literature (ASAL).

Julie Watts

Julie Watts is a Western Australian writer and Play Therapist and lives by the coast with her family. She has been published in various journals and anthologies including: Westerly, Cordite Review, Australian Love Poems 2013, Australian Poetry Anthology 2015, the Anthology of Contemporary Australian Feminist Poetry, The Dangar Island Gargage Boat: (Newcastle Poetry Prize Anthology 2016), Global Poetry Anthology 2017, Signs: (Vice Chancellor’s International Poetry prize 2018).

Julie won the Grieve (2016), was shortlisted for the Montreal International Poetry Prize (2017), won The Blake Poetry Prize 2017 and The Dorothy Hewett Award for an Unpublished Manuscript (2018). Her first collection of poetry, Honey and Hemlock, was published in 2013 by Sunline Press. Her second poetry collection, Legacy, was published in 2018 by UWA Publishing.


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