Creative writing and poetry lecturer Dr Anthony Lawrence has won the prestigious 2013 Blake Poetry Prize for his dramatic monologue, Appellations.
Presented by the NSW Writers’ Centre and the Blake Society, the $5000 prize is named for visionary artist and poet William Blake, and was established to give Australian poets new possibilities to explore religion and spirituality.
One of Australia’s best known poets with a career spanning 35 years and including honours such as the NSW and Queensland Premier’s Awards, Dr Lawrence says winning the Blake is one of the highlights.
“Every award is recognition of your work, but a prize like the Blake is astounding,” he said.
“Blake was also an artist, and I believe poetry and painting are closely aligned in the dreaming and composition process.
“Sometimes I wake up with two or three lines fully formed. For me, writing poetry is partly a celebration of the spiritual through the mystery of the unknown, and a poem may take a day or even five years to finish.”
He points to a tattered folder filled with the remnants of verse; snatches of half-finished poems – some as old as 15 years.
“I must finish some of these,’’ he says with a wry smile.
Three of the ones he did complete were shortlisted for the Blake Poetry prize and are from his new book – Signal Flare, published by Puncher and Wattmann and launched in Sydney earlier this month. As well as Appellations, Nocturne was highly commended and The Pines was shortlisted.
Lawrence’s recent work involves his spiritual philosophy, intimacy and human relationships. He is a prolific writer, all the while teaching his students that “we can find angels in unknown places and beauty in the common-place”.
Judges’ comments for Appellation: “The narrator keeps the reader in suspense with an intriguing tale of nostalgia, mystery, intoxication, doubt and belief. The tone is by turns ironic and lyrical, with an imagistic control of the abstract. Dynamic and unexpected occurrences unfold with ease; appearances and disappearances are both discrete and inter- connected making the poem edgy, breathtaking, intoxicating to read and highly skilful.”