Winners for the Val Vallis Award for an Unpublished Poem 2017

By and | 15 September 2017

Run by Queensland Poetry Festival, and named in honour of a distinguished Queensland poet, the Arts Queensland Val Vallis Award for an Unpublished Poem is committed to encouraging poets throughout Australia. 2017 Selection panel: Stuart Barnes and Michelle Cahill.


In ‘Quietly, on the way to Mars’, Bronwyn Lovell opens a space for the discussion of human evolution and the unknown. This dazzling lyric and narrative poem courses a similar trajectory to such oth er transformative feminist poems as Adrienne Rich’s ‘Diving into the Wreck’. Lovell’s poem houses shadows, a sense of the past and a curiosity concerning them; it sustains a speculative quality and maintains a fascination with the psychology of law and relationships; it is compelling for its wit, its command of striking language, its sense of quiet achievement. The speaker wryly notes: ‘The medi-display won’t quit winking / on my wrist. I worry what tales it is telling, / how long till those monitoring suspect / my duplicitous condition. That’s the trouble / with sending humans—we’re not so loyal / as Labradors, nor diligent as DNA. / People are bound to disappoint.’

Runner up (tie)

His Master’s Voice’, by Jeff Guess, is addressed to the poet’s father, and this spare sequence of five contemporary sonnets in couplet form takes for its subject a work tool or a writing instrument. It achieves a rare lyric accomplishment of characterisation and transgenerational narrative expressing regret and devotion, infidelity and compassion. It is a honed and quietly thoughtful sequence.

Highest QLD entry

Laurie Keim’s ‘The Future of Music’, with its trance-like focus and enigmatic dialectic, elegantly argues for the possibility of a lyric space in the technosphere.

Highly commended

(after) HER: dating app adventures’ by Rebecca Jessen
Buying satin dresses at Yu Garden’ by Ella Jeffery

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