At Perth Writers’ Week, Copyright Agency CEO Adam Suckling presented Western Australian poet Julie Watts with the 2018 Dorothy Hewett Award for her manuscript, Legacy.
It is the first poetry manuscript to win the $10,000 cash prize, provided by Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund, and a publishing contract with UWA Publishing.
Julie won The Blake Poetry Prize last year and the Hunters Grieve Project in 2016. Her work has also been shortlisted in the Montreal International Poetry Prize 2017.
Her first poetry collection, Honey and Hemlock, was published in 2013 by Sunline Press.
Previous Dorothy Hewett Award winners have been the novels Extinctions by Josephine Wilson (which won the 2017 Miles Franklin Literary Award) and Drawing Sybylla by Odette Kelada.
The 2019 Dorothy Hewett Award, which opens for entry in May, has one key change: it will no longer require manuscripts to be connected to Western Australia. UWA Publishing Director Terri-ann White says she is excited to open up the award to all Australian writers working in the fields of fiction, creative-non fiction and poetry as part of the evolution of the award as an important talent-spotter.
Here is one of the poems from Legacy by Julie Watts:
The story of Julian who will never know we loved him
there’s a drunk on the train spouting Kant
that’s the dude who changed my life.
he lurches up the aisle woolies bag swinging
off his elbow slips sideways through space
lands on shrinking laps apologies sways
on Kant changed everything.
the man sitting next to me tries to become
invisible plugs in his ear phones climbs
into his computer but the drunk spies him
and like fate see-saws towards him
stands by his seat holding the rail his
weaving hips unknotting the tight Sydney night.
ever wonder where your ideas come from?
he is thrown – sinks
into the seat opposite chuckles
takes a swig from his goon cask
and it sways like a pendulum at his elbow.
but where do you get your meaning?
‘from my wife and children.’
again he is thrown – and flashes a grin
like the sun coming out its spark
lighting the dark with all its vanished
promise. he leans forward whispers
that’s a bit old fashioned, man.
‘yeah, I know, but that’s ok with me’
and it’s done – he thrusts his hand across
the divide – friend! I’m Julian, brother
and laughs opens his phone
a flash on the screen
my son Jeremiah named after a prophet
and the curtain falls.
it begins at his forehead a crumpling
of skin pulls his mouth into such
a contortion we have to look away.
the man next to me unplugs his ear
phones puts away his computer
and offers up his attention
it’s enough to make a philosopher
when the police step in at the next station
he has slipped into a narcolepsy of grief
and booze as they take him away we
say ‘take care of him’
‘he’s a philosopher’
‘he’s in pain’
‘aren’t they all,’ they mumble.
the train rattles on without him
no Kant no bursts of light
people get up from their seats
and ask questions about jail cells
his grazed cheek and chipped tooth.
he has gone –
and he’ll never know we loved him
on a late Sydney train last March.