The 68th Blake Poetry Prize

Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, in collaboration with WestWords, are honoured to present the shortlist for the 68th Blake Poetry Prize.

The Blake Prize is an open poetry prize that challenges poets, both national and international, in conversations concerning faith, spirituality, religion and/or belief.

The Blake Poetry Prize | $5,000 | Non-Acquisitive

This year the winner was announced on May 18th at Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, awarded by NSW Parliamentary Secretary for the Arts Julia Finn MP and Ned Mannoun – Mayor of Liverpool, along with WestWords executive director Michael Campbell. 

Please scroll below to see the winner, highly commended, and the full shortlist for the 68th Blake Poetry Prize. 

We would like to thank this year’s judges for their deliberations.

The Judges

Simone King

Simone King (she/her) is a poet, editor and policy adviser living on Wurundjeri country, Naarm/Melbourne. Her poems and reviews have been published in Best of Australian Poems 2022, Rabbit, Cordite, Plumwood Mountain, Mascara Literary Review and a number of print anthologies. Simone has won several poetry prizes including the 2022 Blake Poetry Prize and the 2021 Woorilla Poetry Prize. She coedited What we Carry: Poetry on Childbearing, Recent Work Press, 2021. Simone has spoken on panels and performed her poetry at Sydney Writers’ Festival and Queensland Poetry Festival.

Simone King reads her poem Surfing Again, the winner of the 67th Blake Poetry Prize.

Ellen van Neerven

Ellen van Neerven is a writer of Mununjali and Dutch hertitage. Ellen’s books include Heat and Light (UQP, 2014), Comfort Food (UQP, 2016), Throat (UQP, 2020) and Personal Score (UQP, 2023). 

Ellen van Neerven speaks to David Ades in this WestWords episode of Poets’ Corner.

Peter Ramm

Peter Ramm is a poet and teacher who writes on the Gundungarra lands of the NSW Southern Highlands. His recent collection Waterlines (2022) was published by Vagabond Press. In the same year, he won the Manchester Poetry Prize. His poems have also won the Harri Jones Memorial Award, The South Coast Writers Centre Poetry Award, The Red Room Poetry Object, and have been shortlisted in the Bridport, ACU, Blake, Newcastle, Peter Porter, Tom Collins, and KSP National Poetry Prizes. Peter has been widely published in Australian academic and literary journals, and has been awarded residencies with Varuna, WestWords, and the South Coast Writer’s Centre.

Peter Ramm reads his 66th Blake Poetry shortlisted poem Waterline to a Kingfisher. 


Judges’ Comments

“With 575 entries to the 68th Blake Poetry Prize and a very high calibre of poetry overall, it was a very difficult task to decide on a shortlist of eight poems and a winner and highly commended poem. The poems collectively offered a wonderfully diverse array of forms, voices, language and engagement with the concept of spirituality. Some poems made us laugh, others gave us tingles, some surprised us, and others revealed connections between things that we thought were unrelated. The experience of engaging with the submitted poems was incredibly enriching, and we consider that it has expanded and deepened our own understandings of contemporary spirituality.”

Simone King, Ellen van Narveen and Peter Ramm

The Winner & Highly Commended

Judges’ Comments

Three Lessons

This poem, dedicated to ‘voice and guzheng’, is a strong achievement of form, style and theme. The poem is tender in its telling of ceremony, learning and family. It stood out for its unique presentation and expansive exploration of sound.”

“Written in three parts this poem mixes both the written and visual forms to invite the reader to consider the ways in which ancestries, spiritualties, and cultures are woven together across time and space. The visual medium serves to underscore the aural inflections of the poem that echo though its lines, ‘Across the seas and centuries, we play the voices of the dead to life; invite their legacies.’ The poem’s tender attention to the ‘voiceless artefacts’ of family, the bowls, cups, golden paper squares, the ‘coffee table crammed in the garage’ are a precise meditation on the vessels that carry memory and heritage. In this, the poet imbues them with the histories of diaspora, the conflict with satisfying the ‘old ghosts sighs’ with the knowledge that ‘Songs of blood are hard to sing.’ Throughout the poem, striking imagery carries the poet’s connection to the past, ‘stiffened my thumbs—a hardening my ancestors knew as the grind of a shovel, the back-heat of working fields’ and ‘a red song for breakfast; twirling with friends in the square.’ Ultimately, the poet suggests spiritual and familial connections are hard won, against the metaphor, ‘present tides are strong and ever changing seafloor form’ they remind of us of the power of music to reverberate through time and place, bridging the past and present, but that those bridges, like songs, take a lifetime to master.”

“Three Lessons moves between evocations of songs and image to convey how family, ritual, art and ancestral lineages shape the inner life. This poem has an original and innovative form, offering an audio-visual experience that is in conversation with and further enrichens its strong poetic lines. The poet’s images are sensual and specific – golden paper squares curled to ingots, jasmine smoke unfurling and plastic-wrapped hot roast chicken which can’t be transformed to baahk chit gai. While “[s]ongs of blood are hard to sing”, this poem’s beautiful music and reflective and wise voice reveal a poet in dialogue with a rich lineage of poetry, creativity and loss.”


Judges’ Comments

An Addict’s Benediction
Highly Commended

The striking first line of this poem is one that the judges came back to again and again. Its sharp subversion of the religious theme of the competition screams out in its first part, ‘I found God at the bottom of a dime bag, shivering. He turns his body into an elixir and I drink him through steel.’ The poem’s structure, holds a mirror to the form of traditional verses, whilst questioning the relevance and power of religious ritual in trauma of addiction, ‘Scab of communion pressed against my tongue: my own wine stains enamel, rotting.’ These tactile images draw the reader back again and again to their visceral experience, ‘the burning rush of a lease agreement,’ ‘blood cleansed by the jog,’ and ‘After all, what is religion if not a chemical reaction: of the soul.’ Like the thunder of its early lines, this poem refuses to stay silent, it gives voice to many who are ‘asked to leave’ and traces the redemption of the addict in spite of their rejection, through the transformation of the body, through the small pleasures of the ‘daylight hours’ on the face. The poet deftly uses syntax and diction to sustain both the intensity and immediacy of the subject, like addicts we are driven through its lines seeking our own rapture.”

“This poem has stunning individual lines and overflows with depth and meaning. A thought-provoking and gritty take on the competition’s theme. Portrays addiction, class, mental health and cohesion without pretension and strikes a chord with the reader.”

“This is a deeply moving account of experiences of drug addiction and rehabilitation and their relationship to the profane and sacred. Engaging and subversive from the opening line, the poet uses a raw, gritty voice and an extended God/worshipper metaphor to provide powerful insights into the nature of drug addiction. Soaring lines such as “[t]o be high and houseless is to be closer to the sky” convey the potential inaccessibility of institutional religion and spiritual development for some people experiencing addiction. Importantly, this poem reveals the deep spiritual work required to rehabilitate from drug addiction, and the spiritual richness of returning to oneself and life in a reclaimed and healing body.”


Coco X. Huang is a Chinese-Australian writer, musician and scientist. She enjoys creating interdisciplinary works that challenge and extend conventional forms.

Congratulations to Coco X. Huang who has won $5,000. 


Listen to the three pieces of music, composed by Coco X. Huang, that accompany her winning poem, Three Lessons

Scott-Patrick Mitchell is a non-binary poet and the recipient of the 2022 Red Room Poetry Fellowship. Mitchell’s debut poetry collection, Clean, was released in 2022 and explores meth addiction, recovery and power of embracing queer identity and community as a way to heal. Clean has been shortlisted for the 2023 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, Book of The Year in the 2023 Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards and the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards.

The Shortlist

Judges’ Comments

God, the Sestina

God, the Sestina is a joy to read. It is a well-crafted, subversive and playful poem that queers religion and celebrates diversity, freedom, exploration, art and pop culture. Its modified sestina form, with each line ending on the word “god”, provides the poet with a grounding structure from which they play, surprise us, and engage with a range of themes, ideas and influences. The line-endings are clever, original and funny. There is a wonderful intertextuality to this poem, which draws upon and celebrates the work of other poets as well as music and pop culture.”

“This poem is a unique presentation of the sestina form, choosing to hold its acute focus on the conceptualisation and revisiting of the notion of God in each line ending. In its subversion and transformation of the form, it offers a profound contemplation on the formation of the human consideration of ‘god/God’ as a relative and subjective entity. The poem is superbly crafted in its unwavering intensity and investigation of its subject, jarring the reader by recontextualising its religious allusions in new places both in its literal and linguistic sense, ‘In the beginning a finished god scintillated. Forsaken by a little tin god I mirrored the golden face of a god-dess—‘Bless him, Holy Mother of God…’ Its lines are loaded with dense imagery that are both acts of defiance and resistance, acts of protest and liberation, questioning and reconciliation of the self. They carry both the tragedy and delicate beauty or realisation, tracing the speaker’s desperate journey of discovery enjambed across every line, through each lived encounter, ‘I flapped like a god-wit. When I hit seventeen I went to God-’s Waiting Room with a fellow God-fearing queer, encountered a Greek god.’”

“This significant poem queers the sestina form with a demonstrated use of control and confidence. The poem has a visceral and confronting nature achieved by its bold use of repetition and feels urgent in its dissection of queerphobia.”


Judges’ Comments

Etymology of paalam

This poem deftly uses an etymological form to explore the possibilities of language, to open the reader to new meanings, to subvert the limitations of categories and definition, and to impart the way we gain knowledge through lived experience. Each line of the poem creates a glimpse into new understanding, its images challenge absolutes and reward the careful attention to its vivid imagery. Through its stanzas the poem wrestles with the semiotics of identity, of words that define being, layered with surprising metaphors and imagery that depict the shaping of a life. Lines like, ‘my body is a loaf made of stone,’ and ‘I know nothing of myself I, a stained-glass façade the queerness I buried is a seed’ question and subvert the religious allusions of the poem, asking more of language, as the subject seeks a deeper understanding of the self. In its final lines the search and questions are tied together, ‘Paalam: goodbye a word said over and over doesn’t lose its meaning. It grows heavier backed by the losses like a landfill, or lighter, when the fear is thrown off at last into the sea and a name given to itself I let go of the self’ and the poem finds resolution out of the pain and regeneration of the speaker’s life. This is a poem characterised by taut lines—an act of withholding, or restraint; like knowledge, it comes slowly and painfully with time, with each reading, leaving both answers and deep questions in how we conceptualise and define our understandings of self.”

“This clever and well-crafted poem explores the intersections between language, sexuality, the body, identity and difference. The innovative form of this poem, borrowed from poet K-ming Chang and extended upon, allows the poet to develop a constellation of ideas throughout the poem, with each stanza offering more meaning, nuance and understanding. The poet’s language is concise, surprising and wonderfully original.”

“Language, family, queerness and culture – love how the author has combined all of these seamlessly in this poem. This poem rewards a rereading. It has a non-hierarchal approach to language. Modern poem – with youthful energy.”


@stuartabarnes  @StuartABarnes

Stuart Barnes is the author of Like to the Lark (Upswell Publishing, 2023), winner of the 2023 Wesley Michel Wright Prize in Poetry, and Glasshouses (UQP, 2016), winner of the 2015 Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize, commended for the 2016 FAW Anne Elder Award and shortlisted for the 2017 ASAL Mary Gilmore Award. His Sestina after B. Carlisle won the 2022/23 Gwen Harwood Poetry Prize. Stuart, Nigel Featherstone, Melinda Smith and CJ Bowerbird are Hell Herons, a spoken-work/music collective whose first record is due in 2024. 

Kaya Ortiz Poetry

Kaya Ortiz is a queer Filipino poet of in/articulate identities and record-keeper of ancient histories. Kaya hails from the southern islands of Mindanao and Lutruwita/Tasmania and is obsessed with the fluidity of borders, memory and time. Their writing has appeared in Portside Review, Westerly, Australian Poetry Journal, Best of Australian Poems 2021 and After Australia (Affirm Press 2020), among others. Kaya lives and writes on unceded Whadjuk Noongar country, where their name means ‘hello’ in the Noongar language.

Scott-Patrick Mitchell speaks to David Ades in this WestWords episode of Poets’ Corner.

Judges’ Comments

Constellation Rifts

This poem tackles its heavy subject with a form befitting the processes of diagnosis and treatment. Moving through each titled sequence it adjusts itself to the gravity of each context, to the hardship and suffering of those who experience cancer. Through the extended imagery of space and science, the poem explores the constellation of thoughts and the conceptualisation of suffering through its lines, ‘the MRI is clanking away. Trying to count to one-hundred, or see myself floating in space – looking down at an Earthrise or imagine the Horsehead Nebula with its delicate folds of gas’ and ‘My breast images are lit up with jets from hypernova. At least, that’s what I deduce.’ In each moment, the poet’s metaphor is vibrantly attuned to the experiences of the subject, like ‘twenty bees scurrying as if startled – stinging the nipple over and over and over,’ offering the reader with a dynamic portrayal of illness and the uncertainty of sever illness, ‘All memories ripple, one universe, sideswipes another. Relief, as colossal as Jupiter’ and, ‘Our minds, often in the needlework of living, hurtling towards an inevitable end.’ The syntactical dexterity of the poet heightens the experience as they move from contemplation to the immediacy of treatment and the harsh realities of experience, ‘Debris of cuts. Pieces missing. Flattened and tied up. My skin abrading. I’m shedding. Displaced’ This is a poem of deep emotion, but one that paints this with the vivid colours of nebula and constellation to give the reader a breathtaking glimpse into the otherworldly, the human mind’s capacity to imbibe experience with imagination.”

“Using a playful form and with an offbeat tone this poem relays an extremely personal and harrowing topic of being diagnosed and treated with cancer. The writing is relatable.”

“This poem achieves a delicate balance of gravity and levity as it tells a raw and harrowing story of cancer and invasive treatments using a playful and offbeat tone and stunning imagery of space and the universe. In doing so, it bears witness to the speaker’s pain, grief and vulnerability while offering glimpses of lightness, vitality and beauty. The images of outer space, from vaporous nebulae to lucent supernovae, provide us with a place to drift, rise, and gain perspective on human life and its fragility.”


Judges’ Comments

Taking you home

This poem uses a couplet sequence form to convey a tender exploration of the way we carry the memory of loved ones with us. There is a sense here that whilst the persona travels to foreign places, ‘The old quarter, Arco’, ‘Chapelle, Notre Dame du Roc, Castellane’ ‘Latin Quarter, Paris’, they journey with the memory of a loved one, the poem as a metaphorical urn they take with them to return home. The couplet presents a delicate reminder of the way two are joined, and each line’s sharp and precise imagery creates a restless focus on places visited that are imbued with memory and the grief of the speaker. As the poet begins, ‘In every square, a fountain or curved basin, taps gushing forth blessings… I drink and this mercurial element gathers our past, your heart, and pours it into mine.’ and so extends through the poem a reflection on how we carry memory, and how the journey of grief is both a physical and spiritual act. The lines of this poem are bursting with energy, ‘stone buildings like fields of lavender while this room pulses orange with sound and warmth,’ ‘voices vehement with company, our wine paler than the candles burning their heady flames’ intertwining the busyness of the world with the swelling of emotion that is a constant echo in the poem, ‘your mouth mobile with new possibilities, shoulders shrugging je ne sais pas as I reach for your hand, the stone outside struck grey.’ Many of the lines sing and dance, and paint a virtuoso at work, ‘where water is pure and cold, each drop a coin silvering tongue and throat; twist it and water slips, spills bullets of sweet liquid, memory-bursts of you leaning, laughing at fountains and troughs’ their harmonies and prosody lifting the poem like a hymn—an aural tapestry of place, a song of remembrance.”

“Demonstrated a high level of control, great description, the use of the couplets worked well. The poem becomes an urn, carrying the mother through worlds, places and times with a heightened sense of spiritual travel.”

“This moving elegy dedicated to the poet’s mother guides us through landscapes of love, nostalgia and loss as the speaker returns to places rich with memories and personal meaning to honour their mother’s life. The poem has an elegant form and its images are sensual, alive and rich with details of the more-than-human world and religious symbols. In parallel with the speaker’s pilgrimage through various European towns and cities, we are invited to witness an important emotional journey through terrains of grief, remembrance and letting go. This poem is an ode to the enduring power of maternal love and the bond between mother and child.”



Alicia Sometimes is a writer and broadcaster. She has performed her spoken word and poetry at many venues, festivals and events around the world. Her poems have been in Best Australian Science Writing, Best Australian Poems and more. She is director and co-writer of the science-poetry planetarium shows, Elemental and Particle/Wave. Particle/Wave has had sell-out seasons at the Melbourne International Arts Festival, World Science Festival Brisbane and National Science Week. In 2023 she received ANAT’s Synapse Artist Residency and co-created an art installation for Science Gallery Melbourne’s exhibition, Dark Matters.

Adrienne Eberhard has published five collections of poetry. Her work has been shortlisted in the Tasmania Book Prize, and longlisted in the Victorian Premier’s Prize and the Tasmanian Literary Awards. Her poems are widely anthologized, most recently in Fishing For Lightning (ed. Sarah Holland-Batt, UQP, 2021).

Judges’ Comments


This poem is a delicate exploration of the intertwining of landscape and the human psyche; the journey of age, our propensity to harm, and the earth’s enduring capacity for renewal, for re-grounding the soul, for the revelation of truth. The poem is a symphony that carries the weight and the lightness of its lines masterfully, balancing the tenderness of each line with striking imagery befitting its form. It reveals itself subtly, like its subject, through observance of the beauty of its language, and the intricacy of its composition.”

“A pondering poem – well-written – highly attuned to the smallest of details and beautifully reflects on current times.”

“This poem, with its elegant form, delicate illusions and original and precise images, is a masterful tribute to the solace we can find in the more-than-human world, deep time, and the gentle rhythms of life during times of unrest. The poet’s images are surprising and sensual as they invite us to witness clouds that seem like “an artificial intelligence of the sky” and “sunlight/[s]peaking its soft mantras at your back.” This poem is important for its sensitive references to the immense suffering resulting from the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its engagement and dialogue with the work of the Palestinian poet Naomi Shihab Nye.”


Judges’ Comments


This is a tender intimate poem that puts family at the heart of everything: church, spirituality, belonging and knowledge. The poem includes Bundjalung language in tender ways as well as using English to critique the ‘failure of nation’.”

“This poem is layered with notions of family, country, and the trauma of separation on the body. Its central metaphors of water and language run through its lines, carrying the reader and the speaker back to the family, ‘I have my father’s feet and my mother’s mouth. Aunty said she would have known me anywhere by my sister’s eyes.’ The poem is an act of remembrance, of language, ‘balun yuna-hla ggihl-a dugan-dah the river [milky way] runs between the mountains’ and lore, ‘some are woven together, like the basket she made that sits by my bed in the cold city. I know nothing more holy’ revealing the power of poem to capture part of what has been lost and to reclaim the subject’s identity through imagery and place, ‘When I take that flight, I study the pattern of river and search for spines.’ Through it all, the poet sustains the idea of the body as an emblem of remembrance, reconnection, and resistance.”

Jinda conveys the sacredness of family, culture, community and Country from a First Nations perspective and explores the capacity of water to hold, heal, and connect people across vast expanses of land and time. The poem’s organic form, which flows into a beautiful passage of Bundjalung language in the second last stanza, compliments the poem’s central motifs and ideas, including the essential relationship between humans and water. The imagery is tender, moving and alive, evoking memories of connection with family and Country.”


Mark Tredinnick Poet

Mark Tredinnick is the author of five collections of poetry, most recently A Beginner’s Guide. His many prizes include the Blake, ACU, Newcastle, Montreal, and Cardiff. His books have won two premier’s literary awards. His most recent book is Nine Carols (2023). He lives and writes on Gundungurra Country southwest of Sydney (Gadigal). His work has touched the loves of many. He is the Managing Editor of Five Islands Press.

Evelyn Araluen is a Goorie and Koori poet from Dharug Country now living in the Kulin Nations. Her debut poetry collection Dropbear (UQP) won the 2022 Stella Prize and she is the co-editor of Overland Literary Journal.

About the Blake Poetry Prize

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.

  To listen to the full shortlisted poems from the 2022 competition, read by the poets, click here

To listen to the full shortlisted poems from the 2020 competition, read by the poets, click here

The Blake Poetry Prize is presented in partnership with