Damen O’Brien is the winner and the runner up to the 2019 Val Vallis Poetry Award, managed by our longtime partner, Queensland Poetry Festival.
Says judges Tamryn Bennett, Judith Beveridge and Yvette Holt on the winning poems:
‘Ice and Glass’ is an elegantly sustained poem set in motion by artful weavings of recurring images of ice and glass. Swinging between crystalised hallucinations and the stellar, the poem fluxes between liquid and solid, grounded in detail while slippery visions are suspended just out of reach. The fluent lines are skilfully orchestrated across the fourteen stanzas, most of which are end-stopped, demonstrating skilful control of form. Tonal modulations, coupled with a penetrating focus of image and diction, create lingering resonances. The intense alchemy of ‘Ice and Glass’ hangs in the air after reading, an incredibly accomplished poem.
‘Bezoar’ is an intriguing poem that takes the subject of the universal compulsion to eat and runs with it surprising and dynamic ways. The language and imagery have strength and energy which carry the poem’s observations forward ultimately into the realm of the personal. The poet’s style is fresh, rhythmic and incisive. The way the poem brings the non-human and the human into balance and focus is one of its pleasures, a poetic petrification mirrored by the lyric intensity of syntax and conversational phrasings.