Sydney poet Judith Beveridge wins $10,000 Poetry Prize

Sydney poet Judith Beveridge has won Australia Catholic University’s coveted poetry prize for a poem dedicated to her husband, fellow poet Stephen Edgar.

The $10,000 prize, to be announced in Sydney on 3 October, is Australia’s richest prize for a single poem, and attracted more than 550 poems this year.

In a poetry career spanning 50 years, Beveridge is regarded as one of Australia’s finest poets. She has won numerous major prizes including the Christopher Brennan Award, the Peter Porter Poetry Prize, several state Literary Awards, and now the ACU Prize for Poetry.

“I just feel so blessed to have found a passion in life. When I think of all the things that writing has given me, I just have to pinch myself,” Beveridge said.

Responding to this year’s theme of Love, Beveridge’s winning poem Two Houses is a flashback to the first rental home she shared with Edgar in 2005. Edgar had just moved up to Sydney from Hobart so they could pursue their relationship.

The pair had met less than a year prior for lunch to discuss a review that Beveridge had written on one of Edgar’s books for the Australian Book Review.

“That was it, we just knew that we were meant to be together,” Beveridge said. “All these changes started to happen, and the poem explores that a bit.”

Despite both being poets, Beveridge says she and Edgar don’t typically show each other their works in progress. Two Houses was the exception.

“I showed him the almost final version, and then I made a few changes. He liked it a lot,” Beveridge said.

ACU Prize for Poetry judge ACU Emeritus Professor Margot Hillel OAM said Two Houses was a tender and loving poem that clearly met this year’s theme.

“Despite appearing simple, it is actually quite complex and multi-layered, seamlessly weaving together the natural world, the imagery of the railway and the deeply personal and human. It is also, however, accessible and very evocative of a newly-found love,” Professor Hillel said.

“Beveridge also masters the exploration of sound as image, and the effect sound has on the humans in her poem.”

Second prize of $5000 was won by 2022 Peter Porter winner, Anthony Lawrence, for his poem about a couple’s playful conversations regarding the desire to have a child. Third prize of $3000 went to Victorian-based Tony Lintermans for his tribute to a childhood friend who tragically died in a road accident in late 2022. All poems submitted this year were judged blind.

Professor Hillel said Lawrence’s poem displayed “a wonderful imaging of intimacy through dialogue and the joy in physical loving”, while Lintemans’ poem was a poignant piece that “powerfully emphasised the importance of close male friendship which is sometimes sadly downplayed in Australia”.

“We’re just so delighted that poetry is alive and well in Australia, and that poets respond so generously each year to the theme,” Professor Hillel said.

“I’m thrilled that the ACU Prize for Poetry has lasted for 10 years. Having been a judge since the beginning of the Poetry Prize, I have witnessed the growing importance of the Award in the literary scene in Australia.”

The ACU Prize for Poetry was established in 2013 by ACU’s Office of the Vice-President and has become a highly anticipated event in Australia’s literary calendar. The prize is a continuation of the Catholic Church’s role as the largest patron of the arts.

ACU Vice-President Fr Anthony Casamento CSMA said as a Catholic institution, ACU was committed to providing a space for emerging and established poets to hone their craft.

“ACU established the Prize for Poetry ten years ago to continue the Catholic Church’s longstanding tradition of supporting the arts,” Fr Casamento said.

“Over the last decade of running the Prize, we have published hundreds of new poems, all shortlisted from the competition, in our annual chapbooks, and will continue to encourage poets into the future.”

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