2021 Queensland Poetry Val Vallis Award Winners
By Sara M Saleh
and Andy Jackson
| 16 October 2021
Dimitra Harvey has won the 2021 Queensland Poetry Val Vallis Prize with ‘Cicadas’; Dan Hogan wins second prize with ‘How_to_be_the_best_worker_in_the_world.ppt’ and Damen O’Brien wins the Highest Queensland entry for ‘What’s Wrong With the Date?’.
Rich in imagery that is both vividly real and subtly symbolic, ‘Cicadas’ is a lyrical meditation on mortality, transformation and sustenance. Its close observations – of insects, love, gardening, death and food – accumulate and deepen with each reading. An insightful, restrained and expansive poem.
The poem is driven by an experimental edginess, wildly creative wit, and is informed by a voice that is both incendiary and vibrant. Its form functions as rupture, embedded in it both an unfailing attentiveness and an absurdity impossible to ignore.
This run-on poem does not permit the reader to come up for air but rather compels us to confront ongoing Australian un-history captured in layer upon evocative layer, its frenzied rhetorical questions belie a steadiness gripping us and keeping us beholden long after reading.
Sara M Saleh
is a human rights campaigner, poet, writer, and the daughter of migrants from Palestine, Egypt, and Lebanon, living on Gadigal land. Her poems, short stories, and essays have been published in English and Arabic in various national and international outlets including the Australian Poetry Journal, Cordite Poetry Review, Meanjin, Overland Journal, Kill Your Darlings, Red Room, Rabbit Poetry, the Sweatshop Women’s Anthology: Volume II, and global anthologies Making Mirrors, Solid Air: Australian and New Zealand Spoken Word, A Blade of Grass, and Borderless: a transnational anthology of feminist poetry. She has run poetry workshops in countless classrooms, community spaces, and festivals across the country, and has performed nationally and internationally. She is co-editor of the 2019 anthology Arab, Australian, Other: Stories on Race and Identity. She is the first poet to win both the Australian Book Review’s 2021 Peter Porter Poetry Prize and the Overland Judith Wright Poetry Prize 2020. She is currently developing her first novel Songs For The Dead and The Living as a recipient of the inaugural Affirm Press Mentorship for Sweatshop Western Sydney. She sits on the board of national advocacy organisation GetUp! and is a proud Bankstown Poetry Slam ‘Slambassador’.
is a poet and creative writing teacher, and was awarded the inaugural Writing the Future of Health Fellowship. He has been shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry, the John Bray Poetry Award and the Victorian Premier's Prize for Poetry. Andy has co-edited disability-themed issues of Southerly and Australian Poetry Journal, and his latest poetry collection is Human Looking, which won the 2022 ALS Gold Medal.