Australian Poet Wins $50,000 Montreal International Poetry Prize

The $50,000 Montreal International Poetry Prize has just announced that Australian poet and essayist Mark Tredinnick, who lives in the highlands southwest of Sydney, has been awarded the inaugural prize for his poem, "Walking Underwater."

The winning poem was selected from a shortlist of nearly 50 poems (including a second poem by Tredinnick, “The Kingfisher”) by former UK poet laureate Andrew Motion.

"This is a bold, big-thinking poem,” Motion says of “Walking Underwater, “in which ancient themes (especially the theme of our human relationship with landscape) are re-cast and re-kindled. It well deserves its eminence as a prize winner.” The poem has been published on the Montreal Prize website, with a recording of Tredinnick reading the winning poem.

The nonprofit Montreal International Poetry Prize represents a new approach to major literary awards,

being the first major literary prize to be awarded "blind," meaning the author's identity is not revealed to the judge until after the winner has been selected. Funding from the prize comes from a $50,000 catalyst donation and community contributions. “Our project represents a challenge to the traditional hierarchies and conservative instincts that characterize much of the modern literary world,” says Montreal Prize co-founder, Len Epp.

A second poem was selected from the shortlist by U.S. painter and sculptor Eric Fischl as the basis for a "broadside," or illustrated poem. Fischl's selection, "The Grasshoppers' Silence" by Canadian poet Linda Rogers is based on the true story of Rumana Monzur, who was blinded in an attack by her husband in Bangladesh in June. "I've chosen this poem because the image of the one-legged grasshopper won't let me sleep," Fischl says of his selection.

The shortlisted poems were chosen from 3,200 entries from 59 different countries by a group of ten distinguished poets from Australia, Canada, Guyana, India, Ireland, Jamaica, Malawi, Nigeria, the U.K., and the U.S.

“Everything we accomplished,” Epp says, “we did on a 100% volunteer basis and with pretty much no budget for anything besides the absolute essentials. We're proud of what we accomplished in our startup year and have received a lot of support from around the world.”

On the funding issue, he adds, “We are still raising funds for a 2012 prize. It looks like we're going to need another push on the swings before we achieve real independence, so we're currently asking for micro- (or macro!) donations, preparing a sale of the broadside, and seeking traditional sponsors.”

© Linda Leith


[Posted on the Globe Books site on Thursday, December 15th.]

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