Archive for December, 2016


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Page…Vanessa Page, currently based in Brisbane, has had successes in prestigious competitions and some near-misses in unpublished manuscript competitions; Walleah put out her first full-length collection, Confessional Box, in 2013.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.


2016 Martha Richardson Poetry Prize

Yesterday I learned that my poem ‘Christmas Day in Harlaxton’ won the 2016 Martha Richardson Memorial Poetry Prize. This is the second time I have won this prize, having been a previous winner in 2014. The poem is not yet up at Ballarat Writers, so I’ve included a version here. My thanks to both Ballarat Writers and to the competition judge Emilie Zoey Baker.

Her comments on the poem were as follows:

Winner: Christmas day in Harlaxton

This poem really stood out from the crowd. It’s a beautifully composed piece with flawless execution.

Christmas day in Harlaxton is claustrophobic, detailed and powerful. Like the writer I felt like I was trapped inside it and then relieved I wasn’t.

The imagery here is cinematic, dusty, hot and detailed. It has a grotesque beauty and is a powerful portrait of an Australian moment from a very unique poetic voice. A conga line of patriarchs, peeling blacked bits off barbecued birds / One of the piss fuelled sons is shaping up to the old man. They shake the earth like diprotodons beside the hills hoist.

And now, here’s the poem in its entirety:


Christmas Day in Harlaxton

On Christmas morning, the devil slips under the edge

of a green canvas marquee – another family tradition


to keep the festive underbelly from view.  There’s a

pecking order of men, propped on kitchen chairs –


dragged outside without ceremony. They squash the

bruise-yellow vinyl flat, sweat-patched and moustachioed


in ruggers and singlets and rubber thongs. The palette of

khaki, mustard and mud – everywhere, a regular truth in


the threat of sex and muscle. They eat first, a conga line

of patriarchs, peeling blackened bits off barbequed birds.


The plastic tub of tabouleh up-ended near the door: we 

don’t want any of that fucking weirdo shit here. The women


sigh, deep inside themselves. This is just another day to

‘get through’. At the sink, a pot-bellied uncle grabs a niece


from behind. She starts, fresh-skinned inside a sleeveless

cotton shift – the rough two-step and lark just enough


to make nubile flesh. Downstairs, the kids run and

shriek in sarsaparilla-high notes. The eldest boy-cousin


barks orders from the top of the fence. The others

laugh and call him the King. Little girls bring offerings


on paper serviettes as the devil lurches off his stumps.

And before plum pudding even makes it out, one of


the piss-fuelled sons is shaping up to the old man. They

shake the earth like diprotodons beside the hills-hoist.


Hate-faced and cussing, their fists in knots of flesh and

rage.  The in-law from the city waits it out – keeps his


blonde-headed girls away from their grandfather’s lap.

When Boxing Day dawns, there will be nothing left


for the sun to beat to a pulp. They’ll sleep it all off.

Wives and aunts will unpack the same old excuses.

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December 2016