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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.


Cordite Explode and more

The latest issue of Cordite: Explode! published this week and it was wonderful to see one of my most important poems find a place to quietly shout at the world here. My thanks to Editor Dan Disney for selecting my work ‘Aylan’ for the issue.

Of the piece, Dan wrote in his essay:

Elsewhere here, poems like Vanessa Page’s ‘Aylan’ perform their saying as both a dirge and despondence … hers a decremental cry of despair, a semantic satiation and sonics of belief being beggared, repeatedly. All these are exemplary, an ‘unlikely music’ (to appropriate Janet Galbraith’s eulogising, in ‘Listening’) in a time when so much rhetoric smears organisationally across discourses (political, aesthetic, etc.), trumpeting any not ours as flatly and fully threatening and unwanted.

You can read Aylan here.

Recently another of my poems – The Mort Street Badlands, picked up a Highly Commended at the 2016 Ipswich Poetry Feast. This poem’s also online and you can check it out here.

While I haven’t been able to get to a lot of live poetry since the festival, it was wondrous to be in the house for the launch of Melissa Ashley’s ‘The Birdman’s Wife’ last month at Avid Reader. Such a labour of love and accomplishment! Big love to you Mel for creating this thing of beauty!

img_7558 img_7551

And in a reminder that its the small gestures of kindness that mean everything – I received (completely out of the blue) the latest chapbook from Judith Rodriguez, a real favourite of mine. Delighted to see a lake poem in there too. Thank you Judith. I love the generosity of the poetry community. And it’s a great little kick along for me to get things in order and start to unravel this giant bowl of spaghetti – aka folders of finished and nearly finished poems that, when put together in the right way, will hopefully sing!




2016, so far

It’s been more than 6 months since I last posted an update, but it hasn’t been an idle time. I’ve been working away at a big file of poems, many of them first formed and written during a trip to Tasmania last year. I love Tasmania. I’m half Tasmanian after all! But the beauty of the place is very conducive to writing. Most of the poems were written at New Norfolk west of Hobart where I stayed for a few days, and since then I’ve been working away steadily at them. The most recently completed of these pieces is ‘Back River’, which is in the current issue of Australian Poetry Journal.

This year, I have been focussed mostly on writing and submitting to journals, with about half a dozen picked up so far. The latest of these have been ‘Manus’ which appeared in Australian Poetry Journal 5.2, ‘Inheritance’ which appeared in Cordite: The End, ‘Instinct of Sharks’ which appeared in Cordite: No Theme, ‘Box Kite’ which appeared in Writ Review, and of course ‘Back River’.

The Tasmanian poems feel very special. Many of them are historically themed, and were written with my own genealogical frame – in that many of them evolved from pieces of information I’ve learned about through my own research. I’m pleased with how they are evolving and combining together into something strong and cohesive.

August in Brisbane is Queensland Poetry Festival time and it’s always a great event and a great opportunity to just immerse in words over the festival weekend. Looking forward to this, mostly because I haven’t been present for much of the year at spoken word/open mic events as I focus more on writing and submitting my work. That means I must be due to read something, somewhere, soon. See you at QPF!



China Bull launch today

It’s always an exciting time to officially launch a book into the world, and today I’m really excited about launching China Bull. This manuscript won the 2015 Work + Tumble prize, and was co-authored by friend and poet John Koenig. Already there has been a lot of interest in the story that we re-tell – the sometimes shocking, but essentially powerful love story about my Great Grandmother and Great Grandfather.

China Bull banner

The book has been printed in a very limited edition print run, and sold out of the Work + Tumble online shop in about a week. That means the only remaining copies will be on sale at today’s launch event. These are traditional chapbooks, printed using time-honoured letterpress methods and cutting edge digital techniques, and each of the covers has been hand stamped.

Limited copies of China Bull available on the day, plus copies of Confessional Box, and postcards featuring new poems.

Launch event details are as follows:

  • TODAY – 17 October 2015
  • Rendezvous Readers Tearoom, Williams Street, Dayboro
  • 2-3pm
  • Book will be launched by Trudie Murrell and Nikki Boyd MP, State member for Pine Rivers.

Hope to see you there!




 the sea offers up your name…the sea offers up your name

the sea offers up your name…the sea offers up your name

offers up your name, offers up your name, offers up your

name… your name, your name, your name, your name

the sea offers up your name…the sea offers up your name

the sea offers up your name…the sea offers up your name

your name, your name, your name, your name, your name

offers up your name, offers up your name, offers up your

name… your name, your name, your name, your name

the sea offers up your name…the sea offers up your name

the sea offers up your name…the sea offers up your name

offers you… offers you… offers you… offers you.. offers up

your name, your name, your name, your name, your name

your name, your name, your name, your name, your name

the sea offers up your name…the sea offers up your name

the sea, the sea, the sea, the sea, the sea, sea, sea, sea, sea


© Vanessa Page 2015


countdown to QPF begins

The USQ Bookcase last weekend was a terrific lead-up to this year’s Queensland Poetry Festival. I am so excited this year to be programmed to perform at QPF, so having the opportunity to test out 15 minutes of new material on an appreciative Toowoomba audience was great.

This year, I will be performing alongside two other giants of Australian poetry in David Brooks and Michael Farrell in our session ‘Better the devil you know’. I do hope you can come along to catch the performance, which will be held on Sunday 30th August in the Shopfront, 1:30-2:30pm. There are a whole heap of awesome things planned for this year’s festival, which runs from 28-30 August at the mighty Judith Wright Centre in the Valley, so I urge you to check out the program in its entirety at the QPF website.

From Ali Cobby Eckermann, MTC Cronin and Ivy Alvarez to Sarah Holland-Batt, Les Murray and even Clive Palmer MP – there is sure to be something for everyone. And if performance and experimental poetry is more your flavour, I think this year’s program will really ignite your senses.

More soon!


USQ Bookcase this saturday!

This Saturday I’ll be returning to my home town Toowoomba to take part in the USQ Bookcase for a second year. This is a great little festival that showcases some of the University’s alumni as well as the best local writers from the region. I’ll be joined on the main stage from 3:30-4pm by Brett Dionysius and I’m really looking forward to performing with Brett again.

We’ll both have books for sale on the day, so if you are in the Toowoomba region, it would be great to see you there. Check out the program, as there are all manner of workshops and events and performances taking place over the weekend.

It’s great to be involved and give back to my home town and contribute to the cultural life of the region. It’s also a great lead up event to the Queensland Poetry Festival, happening next month. More on this event soon!

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