Dan Hogan has won the 2022 Queensland Poetry Val Vallis Prize with ‘Aduantas’; Sophia Walsh wins 2nd proze with ‘Before You Go’ and Bethany Stapleton wins the Highest Queensland entry for ‘The Botanist’.
This brilliant, idiosyncratic, surrealist poem called to us from amongst the poems we had shortlisted, refusing to be forgotten. There is something jarring, even off-kilter about this poem, which suits the meaning of the title: that strange feeling of fear or loneliness in an unfamiliar surrounding. The words are intriguing tangents from the expected. What exactly is ‘Nondescript respite’ or ‘Misfired association’ or more importantly ’emotes homologous’? It doesn’t matter, the whole makes a strange compelling sense. There is an element of playful ambiguity in this poem, but coupled with the anger just under the surface, the result is bittersweet, like the honey drunk by the narrator. A deserving winner.
This lyrical prose poem is a low pitched yet acute portrayal of the fever of romantic desire. The madness of longing is rendered here in run-on, breathless lines, rapid shifts in modes of address, and a discombobulating shuttling of time. In all this, and especially in its triangulated arrangement of desire, the poem recalls the lyrical (il)logic of Sappho. The poem’s jumpcut series of moments—ecstatic, disconsolate, brooding, longing—proceeds through a deceptively simple, judiciously selected vernacular vocabulary and image repertoire. This only serves to highlight the skill of the poet, who brings something singular and specific into an enduring tradition of love poetry—often attempted, though not often realised as fully as this. An effortless and innovative take on an ancient art.
The concrete, organic expression of this poem belies its artistry. What seems a straightforward poem about a certain person, place and time (Veronica, Fitzroy, the early 2000s) opens onto deeper provocations. What does it mean to observe the world closely, to linger on small things (‘a sure eye and a crate of seedlings’)? What does it mean to collect, polish, ruminate, and care? The artistry of the poet chimes its answer in crisp, stylish lines (‘mementos catalogued, tied up in black’) in this outstanding study of human fascination.