Tom Collins Prize

Late last year I entered one of my historical Tasmanian poems: ‘Mathinna’ into the Tom Collins Prize which is coordinated by the Fellowship of Australian Writers (Western Australia). There was a fantastic shortlist of poets so I was very excited to learn that I’d won a Highly Commended Award. Here’s the full winners’ list. Making this award even more wonderful was the fact that one of my favourite poets Judith Rodriguez was the judge.

Here is what she had to say about Mathinna.

Mathinna was a little indigenous Tasmanian girl, the daughter of an important man, who was after a fashion adopted by Lady Franklin, wife of a colonial governor. There is a beautiful oil painting of Mathinna. Lady Franklin was concerned to “civilise” her, dressing her, teaching her correct behaviour, showing her off. The Franklins separated her from what they thought wildness, but they left and did not take her with them. Her disoriented and drunken later life is seen alongside a description of the decayed mining township named after her. “Mathinna” is a powerful piece of writing by Vanessa Page QLD



Judge’s comments Henry Kendall prize

With the anthology ‘Ear to Earth’ launched, I can now share the judge’s comments provided by Jean Kent for ‘Margaret Olley’s Flannel Flowers’.

“On my first reading of all the poems entered for this competition, this one stood out as utterly surprising and original. It has remained mesmerising and rewarding through many readings since then. ‘Margaret Olley’s Flannel Flowers’ is an intensely personal, beautifully observed response to the landscapes of two places – one that feels like ‘someone else’s country’ and another, which is more the poet’s own. The writing has the visual brilliance of photography, combined with a reflective voice-over of memories and emotional connections. From the beachside pandanus trees and their fruit, ‘poking peep-holes in the weather’, to the poet’s inland place of ‘spinifex and brigalow- tin roofs reflecting the desolation of heat’, the details feel vividly real and freshly experienced. The long lines, with their thoughtful, slightly staggering to-ing and fro-ing between places, perfectly reflect the poet’s desire to witness how ‘effortlessly beautiful’ places are, even those that are not our own.

Like the Margaret Olley painting it refers to, the poem is a triumphant demonstration of how haunting a work of art can be, especially when it is insightful, carefully crafted, and ‘bursting with strange botanicals – all of it, within and outside of myself’.” Jean Kent.


Henry Kendall Prize

Last weekend I made the big trek south to the Central Coast so I could be there for the launch of the Central Coast Poets anthology ‘Ear to Earth’ and to accept this year’s Henry Kendall Award.

It was a great afternoon of poetry, with many poets reading their anthology works on the day. It was wonderful to hear judge Jean Kent speak about the judging process and the things that made my poem ‘Margaret Olley’s Flannel Flowers’ winner of 1st prize.

I also accosted Jean with my treasured copy of Verandahs – her first collection and fellow Anne Elder Award winning book which she graciously signed for me!

I had the opportunity to read the piece myself, which is always so enjoyable. Thanks to the Central Coast poets for putting on such a wonderful event!



A big night at the Ipswich Poetry Feast!

It was an incredible honour to take out the top gong at this year’s Ipswich Poetry Feast for my poem ‘Norman Foote Among the Pumpkins’. This poem was written especially for the competition, with the photo which inspired the poem selected from the Picture Ipswich site.

The poem also took out the Picture Ipswich award category, as well as the overall winner’s prize, and the beautiful Babies of Walloon statuette. Some impressive poets have won this statuette before me, including B.R Dionysius and Roger Vickery so I was truly honoured to join this esteemed company.

To read the poem, visit the IPF website.


2017 Henry Kendall Poetry Award

Very honoured to be named this year’s Henry Kendall Poetry Award winner. This year’s competition was judged by one of my favourite poets Jean Kent, which made winning all the sweeter.

To find out more, as well as the details of the other prize winners from the shortlist of ten, visit the Central Coast Poets website, or click here.

My poem, along with others selected during the judging process will appear in the anthology to be released later this year (in October I understand). If you can’t wait until then, here’s my winning poem – Margaret Olley’s Flannel Flowers.

Margaret Olley’s Flannel Flowers

Pandanus trees rim a small beach, stagger-lurch-stuck at the back of
the dunes; prop-rooted trunks shouldering the weight of canopy fruit

– spiky aureole-crowns poking peep-holes in the weather. I’m passing
through someone else’s country, feet-deep in the bright purple of pig-

face flowers, unhurried, coastal-cool, picking a path through the sand
sweep – alive with native morning glory and creeper-vines, thick with

squish-yellow flowers; each claiming the verges, resisting the spray of
salt – the constant shift of the ground beneath them. Mine is a country

of spinifex and brigalow – tin roofs reflecting the desolation of heat:
womal trees and gidyea, all following the slow brown run of the river.

Here, familiar is the tubular beauty of the banksia, the yolk-studded
fingers of coast-myall; the fleeting mimicry between the silver-backed

leaves and a gleaming catch of river perch: August sun setting a tin-foil
blaze on the Maranoa. This is not my country, but I’m looking through

its portholes, thinking of the Olley painting I cut out of a magazine
once – of the coastal flannel flowers: the way they spoke, perfectly wild

in a fluted cream jug, spilling and existing in no particular arrangement.
Effortlessly beautiful in the same way one’s own country can be, and by

extension: the pockets of another – searching for white, star-shaped
faces beyond the sands, in the rippling dunes, in the shrubby headlands

bursting with strange botanicals – all of it, within and outside of myself.



While I’ve been home recovering after surgery (another knee reconstruction!) my files are starting to resemble some kind of order – including all the little bits of poems and lines I’ve written that don’t have logical homes yet! Apart from filing though, things have been a bit quiet on the poetry front.

I do have the below to share, following on from the Martha Richardson prize last year. This article was published about the poem in the Ballarat Courier. It’s always great to get a bit of publicity, as I do so few live gigs these days, it’s easy to feel a bit disconnected. I’m hoping this will change, as the scene here in Brisbane for open mic seems really quiet these days.


Filling the void in the meantime are my amazing monthly get-togethers with my critique group Tiger Poets – three amazing women that I admire and respect and who are so unique in their poetic voices. Together we make each other’s work more well rounded, and the wine and conversation is always brilliant… To this group I’ve been able to bring the big body of work I completed in December last year and really hammer the dents out of them and get them into great shape. Hoping this year will continue to be a fruitful one and more of my words make their way into print.




another review for Confessional Box

An excellent essay on Tasmanian publisher Walleah Press by Chris Ringrose appears in the latest Australian Poetry Journal (Vol 6.2), and within it – another great review and comments for Confessional Box.

Here’s the excerpt:

“Two jewels in Walleah’s crown of late have been Paul Mitchell and Vanessa Page…Vanessa Page, currently based in Brisbane, has had successes in prestigious competitions and some near-misses in unpublished manuscript competitions; Walleah put out her first full-length collection, Confessional Box, in 2013. Siobhan Hodge reviewed it in Cordite 53, and Peter Keneally picked it up for an astute review in Australian Book Review 351 (May 2013), commenting that, whether writing about the slipping away of a relationship or about life in the bush, Page ‘combines photographic exactness with a resounding turn of phrase’. Keneally noted the move in the final section of Confessional Box to ‘a new love and a guarded happiness’, but in terms that suggest the reviewer preferred the ‘control and clarity’ of the explorations of a suburban relationship in the first section. These are indeed fine portrayals of the life and the confidence in leaving a relationship and a place. The scene is set by the opening poem, ‘Cartography’, where ‘the garden hose [is left] running in the afternoon rain. Yesterday, curled up in the letterbox’, and ‘rain comes / arrhythmic shrapnel / tin-tin-tin’ (3). There is a sense of release in the second section of the book, with the move to the bush, ‘big sky country / another hard-edged Friday night / hanging sweat-heavy / in a summer solstice’ (30). As for the hard-won sense of fullness in the third section, ‘embers’, I found the poems to her young son, in particular, brought the series of poems to a satisfying conclusion.

In her blog, Vanessa Page comments that ‘the idea for the book was born out of a conversation with Ralph Wessman from Walleah Press at the 2012 Queensland Poetry Festival. Ralph approached me asking if he could publish my two short-listed Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Prize manuscripts in a single volume. The two manuscripts were almost companion pieces so it was a perfect fit’. Bravo, Mr. Wessman. The musicality of Page’s lines, and her insights into love, loss and hope, make this a volume to treasure. As well as being another example of Ralph’s initiative, and his eye for good writing.”

And there were some further lovely affirmations from Ralph in the Q&A section of the essay.

Are there any Walleah Press books you are especially happy with and proud of?

“…Vanessa Page’s Anne Elder award-winning collection Confessional Box – it wasn’t the award, it was the writing.”

Which have been the most successful in terms of prizes, awards or sales?

“…Vanessa Page’s Anne Elder Award with Confessional Box a couple of years ago…”

It’s been great to see the reviews of small Australian presses featured in APJ – thanks to Michael Sharkey for giving a great platform. Also in the same edition you can read more about Kent MacCarter’s Cordite Books.

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