Stephen Edgar, Mark Tredinnick, Professor Greg Craven and Jenny Pollak
The winner of the inaugural ACU Literature Prize was announced during the Melbourne Writers Festival.
Stephen Edgar has won the inaugural Australian Catholic University Literature Prize with his poem The Dancer.
The winner and runners up Mark Tredinnick and Jenny Pollak were announced on Wednesday night at ACU's Melbourne Campus.
Edgar's poem was chosen from more than 180 entries nationally and was described by judge Professor Kevin Hart as a "formally exquisite narrative poem, with all the intellectual acuity one has come to expect of his work". The Sydney-based poet won $7000 for his poem, and $2000 and $1000 were awarded for second and third place.
After accepting his award, Edgar said his wife had told him about the prize and he decided to enter.
“I don’t regularly enter prizes, but on this occasion it just so
happened that I had a particular poem that a thought to be very suitable
for the subject matter – and it turns out I was right!
“The Dancer was inspired by something that actually happened to Scottish poet John Burnside when he encountered a patient in a psychiatric institution who started to spontaneously perform a strange swirling dance that had an extraordinarily transcendental effect on his life. The Dancer is essentially about a strange moment of exhilaration in an unexpected context.
“I am delighted to have won the prize. It is certainly excellent for my reputation in terms of my poetry career to have won such a prestigious award.”
A chapbook containing the three poems, The Dancer, Tredinnick's Light Years and Pollak's White Rabbits, will be given to each of the shortlisted entrants.
Titled A Sudden Presence the chapbook includes a selection of poems from shortlisted entries for the Prize.
The ACU Prize for Literature supports writers and continues the tradition of the Catholic Church as a key patron of the arts. A theme will be set for each year: the theme for the 2013 Prize "everyday immanence".
ACU Vice-Chancellor Professor Greg Craven and Director of Identity and Mission Father Anthony Casamento jointly presented the awards. Deputy Director Institute for Catholic Identify and Mission, Professor Anthony Kelly was the keynote speaker.
Poet, author and academic Professor Hart, Dr Carolyn Masel, Dr Matthew Ryan, and Chair of the Academic Board Professor Margot Hillel judged the award.
In his introduction to the chapbook, Professor Hart wrote, "with Edgar, Australia has a poet for whom meter and rhyme have become finely tuned instruments to aid an exploration of complex emotional and intellectual situations."
Of the winning entrants he said: "Three poems, then, out of many; three poems that are unlike one another as unlike can be; three signs of the strength and diversity of contemporary Australian poetry."