Julie Watts wins Dorothy Hewett Award for ‘Legacy’

March 6, 2018

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

Immanuel 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?

‘not really.’

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.

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