Last night the 2013 NZ Post Book Awards were announced, with The Darling North by Anne Kennedy taking out Best Book of Poetry, and Helen Heath’s Graft taking out Best First Book of Poetry. Well done Anne and Helen!
The open was a really interesting field – the judges decided they couldn’t only shortlist three, so we had four people sitting and sweating and biting their nails. As well as Anne Kennedy, there was Sarah Jane Barnett’s A Man Runs into a Woman, Kate Camp’s Snow White’s Coffin, and Ian Wedde’s Laureate collection, The Lifeguard: Poems 2008-2013. It’s worth noting that Sarah Jane’s book was also a First Book – the judge’s report explains the rationale there, and actually makes really encouraging reading.
I really wish that they still had a shortlist for the First Book category. Winning is wonderful, but it’s getting shortlisted that really drums up the interest and conversation around the books. It seems perverse to limit this category, of all of them, to a single exemplar.
Of this year’s collections, Graft is the only one I’ve read so far. I really enjoyed it (and you can read my review here), and was pleased to read the judges’ singling out of my favourite section for praise. The series of poems about her mother are just gorgeous, and quite different to the others. The scientist poems are the ones that people will probably talk about, but this middle section was what stopped me dead. It’s a bugger that reviews have word limits, because I could easily have used up my allocation on any one of half a dozen poems.
Has anyone else read the finalists? Have an opinion to share about them?
To try and encourage the conversation to keep going, I’m holding a competition. If you’ve read one (or more) of the five poetry books in question, write a short (up to five lines) poem that conveys your impressions of it. It can be a summary, a poem in response, a critique (?!), whatever. The key thing is to give me some idea of what the book is like, and what you thought of it. Post your entries in the comments to this … um, post.
At the end of September I will choose the best one (defined for the purposes of this competition only as “the most interesting and or appealing and or enlightening”), and the writer will receive a copy of a recent NZ poetry collection of their choice. Overseas entries welcome (she said, optimistically).
You have your assignments. What are you waiting for?