The University of Newcastle, Australia

Newcastle Sonnets shortlisted for Prime Ministers Awards for Poetry

Monday, 16 September 2019

Newcastle's Keri Glastonbury features among top poet on the literary awards shortlist.

Keri Glastonbury

Poet, author and Senior Lecturer with the School of Humanities and Social Science Dr Keri Glastonbury has had her book Newcastle Sonnets (Giramondo, 2018) shortlisted in the Prime Ministers Literary Awards in the poetry section. The Prime Minister's Literary Awards celebrate outstanding literary talent in Australia and the valuable contribution Australian writing makes to the nation's cultural and intellectual life.

In the sequence of sonnets that compose her homage to Newcastle, Glastonbury celebrates the city's oddities and contradictions, remixing the material effects of post-industrial gentrification with the vernacular of social media.

The Literary Awards judges commented “To Glastonbury's eye the city is a 'chiaroscuro of coal dust and sand'… Glastonbury's sonnets, far from stultifying, are energetic and playful as they enact the associative freedoms of everyday speech. Her tone—wry, not sappy, politically savvy, not didactic—acts as a stabilising force beneath the nervous surfaces of the poems, allowing her to say whatever pops into her head without appearing random.”

Dr Glastonbury is pleased to be on the list with other esteemed female poets.

“That all five of the poets shortlisted this year are women speaks to a thriving literary ecosystem no matter who wins. Last year in the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards across the six categories there was only one female winner who co-authored a children’s literature title, but this year all the shortlists are dominated by women, so our stocks are high,” she said.

“It’s a great feeling of recognition for Newcastle Sonnets and I feel like I’ve made my own small contribution to the world of Australian letters, using Newcastle as a crucible!”

Glastonbury has been the recipient of a number of writers’ grants and writers’ residencies in her career as a poet, including the Australia Council’s B.R Whiting Residency in Rome and an Asialink Literature Residency in India, but this is her first major shortlisting.

“I have also judged a number of literary awards including one for the best Australian first book of poetry this year, and so I realise, to use that word again, what an amazing ‘ecosystem’ Australian poetry is: from poets who are just starting to publish first collections through to the more established poets whose work would have been considered for the Prime Minister’s Literary Award.”

Despite her success Glastonbury is slightly apprehensive of the book being bought by readers expecting conventional or traditional sonnets, as she makes it clear that Newcastle Sonnets is an experimental book.

“The sonnets in Newcastle Sonnets are all 14 lines long, but I don’t use any recognisable rhyme or metre. While the book does contain many local references to Newcastle over a particular period of time, I hope it also appeals to readers who aren’t local: in many ways Newcastle is just one of many post-industrial cities around the world which have undergone a period of gentrification,” Glastonbury said. “I think I may pick up some Canberra readers too as the judges’ report mentions the frequent ‘comical cameos from the political class—Tony Abbott, Bob Carr, Penny Wong’s speechwriter’ and I can add to that local politics: ‘Finally went into The Lucky the other day and was impressed with the bathroom sinks – even McCloy can do hipster better than me’.”

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