Finalists announced for $10,000 poetry prize
The three finalists for one of New Zealand’s richest literary honours, the annual Sarah Broom Poetry Prize, have been announced following selection by award‐winning international poet and novelist, Anne Michaels.
Selected from more than 300 entries, the finalists for the $10,000 prize are Jessica Le Bas, Nina Mingya Powles and Michael Steven. Now in its sixth year, the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize winner will be announced at a special event at the Auckland Writers Festival on Saturday 18 May at the Aotea Centre.
Sarah Broom Trust chairman Michael Gleissner says support and interest in poetry and the Prize continues to grow.
“I’m delighted that this year saw another increase in entries for an important event in the New Zealand literary calendar,” Gleissner says. “The finalists and winners of this Prize are exposed to a global audience through the international judges who validate their work via the selection process.”
Gleissner says this year’s judge was most recently the Poet Laureate for Toronto, Canada and her multiple awards include the Commonwealth Poetry Prize for the Americas, the Orange Prize and the Griffin Poetry Prize.
“We are thrilled to have someone of the calibre of Anne Michaels to judge the 2019 Prize and we look forward to her selection of the winner from a strong field of candidates,” he says.
Le Bas has published two collections of poetry, incognito (2007) and Walking to Africa (2009), winning her the Jessie Mackay Best First Book Award and as a finalist in the Ashton Wylie Book Awards. Large Ocean Islands is a sequence of poems arising from her time spent living and working in the outer islands in the Cook Islands.
Powles is the author of fields notes on a downpour (2018), Luminescent (2017) and Girls of the Drift (2014). Of Pakeha and Malaysian‐Chinese heritage, Powles was one of three winners of the inaugural Women Poets’ Prize in 2018, is the poetry editor of The Shanghai Literary Review and founding editor of Bitter Melon 苦瓜, a new poetry press.
Steven’s work has appeared in brief, IKA, Landfall, Jacket2 and Poetry NZ Yearbook. His first full-length collection, Walking to Jutland Street, was published last year by Otago University Press and was longlisted for Besty Poetry Book in the 2019 Ockham Book Awards.
Gleissner says the work by Le Bas, Powles and Steven stands comparison with previous Sarah Broom Poetry Prize winners, such as CK Stead, Diana Bridge, Elizabeth Smither and Hera Lindsay Bird.
“The quality and calibre of this year’s writing demonstrates that poetry in New Zealand is not only thriving but growing as an artistic discipline, which is wonderful news for lovers of the written and spoken word,” he says.
Entry to the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize event at Aotea Centre’s Waitakere Room is free to the public.
Jessica Le Bas’s first collection of poetry, incognito (AUP 2007), won the Jessie Mackay Best First Book Award. Her second collection, dealing with adolescent depression, Walking to Africa (AUP 2009), was a finalist in the Ashton Wylie Book Awards. She worked for the UN during the Balkan War, and later in the Beehive. In 2012 Le Bas went to Rarotonga for a year, returning again in 2017. Her current job takes her into the Pa Enua, the outer islands of the Cook Islands: Pukapuka to Mangaia, Aitutaki to Mauke. Large Ocean Islands is a growing sequence of poems arising from living in the cultural wealth and wisdom of the extraordinary people of the Cook Islands. She lives in Nikao, Rarotonga.
Nina Mingya Powles is of Pākehā and Malaysian‐Chinese heritage and was born in Wellington. She is the author of field notes on a downpour (2018), Luminescent (2017) and Girls of the Drift (2014). In 2018 she was one of three winners of the inaugural Women Poets’ Prize. She is poetry editor of The Shanghai Literary Review and founding editor of Bitter Melon苦瓜, a new poetry press. Her prose debut, a food memoir, will be published by The Emma Press in 2019.
Michael Steven was born in 1977. His poems have previously appeared in brief, IKA, Landfall, Jacket2, and Poetry NZ Yearbook. He is a graduate of the BCA programme at Manukau Institute of Technology. In 2018, Otago University Press published his first full‐length poetry collection, Walking to Jutland Street, which was longlisted for Best Poetry Book in the 2019 Ockham Book Awards. He is the recipient of the 2018 Todd New Writer’s Bursary. He lives in West Auckland.