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Newcastle Poetry Prize

About the Newcastle Poetry Prize 2018

By | Newcastle Poetry Prize

About the Newcastle Poetry Prize

The Newcastle Poetry Prize is a significant cultural achievement and is a testament to the commitment of its sponsor – the University of Newcastle – to celebrate literary excellence in Australian poetry.

In September 1980, Peter Goldman stood in the middle of Civic Park, Newcastle, during the Mattara Festival and handed out an A4 photocopied anthology of poetry to passers-by. The collection featured poems from local Hunter writers, with contributors ranging in age from six to eightyone. This humble anthology paved the way for the first official Mattara Poetry Prize in 1981, which has gone on to become the most prestigious poetry competition in the country, and is now known as the Newcastle Poetry Prize. Today the Newcastle Poetry Prize is one of the major events on the literary calender in Australia, bringing entries from across the nation.

Each year, local and national poets compete with internationally recognised names and no less illustrious has been the list of judges casting their eye over the entries. The association with Newcastle is no accident. The Hunter Region has a long history of fostering poetry and an active community of local poets who punch above their weight nationally in awards, publication and events. In the words of the late Novocastrian poet, Bill Iden, “Newcastle’s environment makes its poets”. Co-ordinated by the Hunter Writers Centre (a not-for-profit organisation since 1995), the Newcastle Poetry Prize is one of Australia’s oldest and most important literary competitions in Australia. This is made possible through the generous provision of the prize money by the University of Newcastle and through funding from Create NSW.

2018 Newcastle Poetry Prize Judges

By | Newcastle Poetry Prize

We are thrilled to have poet Nathan Curnow as one of our judges of the 2018 Newcastle Poetry Prize judges. Nathan is based in Ballarat, Victoria, and is a past editor of Going Down Swinging. He was published in the 2011 Newcastle Poetry Prize anthology and his published books include The Ghost Poetry Project (2009), RADAR (2012), The Right Wrong Notes (2015) and The Apocalypse Awards (2016). His work has featured in leading journals and been shortlisted for major prizes, receiving the Josephine Ulrick Poetry Prize in 2010. As a peer assessor he has worked for the Literature Board of the Australia Council, Creative Victoria and Arts Queensland. He has recently taught Creative Writing at Federation University and continues to conduct school workshops across the country.

What a coup that Sarah Day agreed to judge the Newcastle Poetry Prize this year with Nathan Curnow. Sarah’s most recent book is Tempo (Puncher & Wattmann, 2013); it was shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards and won the University of Melbourne Wesley Michelle Wright Prize. Awards for previous books include the Judith Wright Calanthe Queensland Premier’s Award, the Judith Wright ACT, the Wesley Michelle Wright Prize and the Anne Elder Award. She was poetry editor of Island Magazine for seven years. Her poems have been widely anthologized in Australia and overseas and have been set to music in Australia and Britain. She has written reviews and articles for magazines such as Island; The Monthly; Southerly; Cordite; Famous Reporter. In 2016 she was one of the judges of the National Wildcare Nature Writing Prize. Her next collection will be published early this year.

Thoughts from 2018 NPP prize winners

By | Newcastle Poetry Prize, Poetry at HWC
NPP 2018 cover Buying Online
University of Newcastle logo

The 2018 Newcastle Poetry Prize winners are listed on our competition page

The 2018 anthology, BUYING ONLINEis on sale here

Here are thoughts from our winners:

Ross Gillett, winner of the 2018 Newcastle Poetry Prize


If poets can be said to have careers, then winning this prize is definitely an enormous career highlight. Its status as the major prize for a single poem in Australia and the substantial amount of money awarded make it a huge honour to have won. The fact that the competition encourages the longer poem is also very significant, as it’s not easy to get longer poems, or sequences of poems, published at all. To publish thirty or so really high quality long poems in such fine anthologies every year is itself a great contribution made to the poetry world.

Ross Gillet, winner.

University of Newcastle logo


I have been aware of the central position the Newcastle Poetry Prize holds since the early Eighties when it was the Mattara Prize. I entered frequently then and since then I’ve seen it evolve into undoubtedly the pre-eminent poetry prize in Australia. As such I regard it as of immense significance to Poetry in general, and to me  —  since in my case I have been somewhat reticent about my work and winning or appearing in the anthology has been highly important personally.  I recognise many of the contributors over the years simply by their repeated appearances, so that we share a kind of collegiality.  In the perilous community of poets the NPP is a life-line and an anchor.

John Watson, 2nd Prize.

Joanne Ruppin, awarded Commended in the Newcastle Poetry Prize 2018


Writing poetry can feel like slogging away in a one-person show with no audience. While the Newcastle Poetry Prize provides a generous financial incentive to persevere, the opportunity to have work read by such eminent judges is a gift in itself. Receiving an award and being published in the NPP anthology encourages me to continue, with fresh resolve, an exciting, exhausting endless game of hide-and-seek with words.

Joanne Ruppin, Commended

Kevin Smith, commended prize winner NPP 2018


To be commended in the Newcastle Poetry Prize is to be judged worthy by one’s peers, and this might be the best kind of acknowledgement. The prize provides opportunity for the longer poem, a chance to reward a sustained aesthetic effort seldom found elsewhere. What poets do is mostly done in isolation. Attending the awards ceremony put me in the company of fine poets and their work—and fine conversation, too—and I sense the rejuvenating desire to improve my craft. I’m standing on more solid ground, I think, looking forward to the road ahead.

Kevin Smith, Commended

Michael Ladd - 2020 judge Newcastle Poetry Prize

2020 Newcastle Poetry Prize

By | Newcastle Poetry Prize, Newsletter | No Comments

The 2020 Newcastle Poetry Prize is now open for entries

Judges are Mike Ladd and Judith Beveridge

Sponsored by the University of Newcastle there is a $25,000 prize pool and a chance to be published in the 39th anthology 

Why not Purchase a past anthology and enjoy some excerpts from past finalists below.

Once Wild 2014 book cover NPP 2019 book cover for Soft Serve Coastline 2012 Book Cover

Always going home (a domestic cycle)
by Karina Quinn
Give (I cannot be separate)
It is almost unbearable, 
the nearness of these children. The feeling
that they are trying to swallow me.
I want more than anything to be 
out, and away, 
and at exactly the same time I cannot bear 
to leave them, so 
soft, so beaming beautiful 
shining like silver underwater shot 
by the sun. At exactly the same time 
I want them to climb back 
inside of me, and I into them, as if 
we could consume each other, as if 
our bodies have never been entirely 
separate. As if we are made of dough, 
and by pushing into each other, we will 
incorporate; we will mix. 
We will be made into a new thing full 
of air and yeast and warmth. The space 
between us elastic with give.
Excerpt from Hex
by Connor Strange 

The night is alive with dust
in harbour light. Gene Vincent’s son-
in-spirit, Ian Dury, is on the radio, kicking blues
from the word rhythm. I am doing my best
to keep from drowning in a maelstrom

of disorder. What is my name? Where are
the ones I have silenced with imagining?
Turn up the volume. I will not falter.
The night is coal-black and still.
Excerpt from The River Running Shallow
by Mark Tredinnick 

And at the bend a foretaste of the evening
Pools and wells, and I swim the scent of ages
Past, the learning way down deep in things,
And I feel a coolness like the dawn upon
My skin.
               The sky, meantime, premeditates
Some rain, which, as I turn, deigns to fall,
Desultory, a while, upon the descant
Chat of children after dinner, beyond
The hedge . . . 

And step by step my mind relents,
And night becomes a house where all I carry
Puts itself to bed—three children, tired 
Now of being every sound that heard them
In my head, and every way they were not
Here, but were the rehabilitated
Sense the river running shallow in deep
Banks made of where I found myself,
Accompanied each step by all I love.
Before they sleep my children read me this:
Grief is proof of love; it lets you walk
“The sweet music of your particular heart”
In step with all you thought you’d lost—but can’t.
Excerpt from A disco in the bush
by Adam Gibson
[Parnngurr, W.A. 9pm]

There’s a big mob
gathered in from Punmu
and Jigalong, east from Warakurna,
over from Kunawarratji and
up from Parnpajinya, here for the funeral,
having arrived in battered cars
that you can’t believe survived that road
and dust-sprayed Toyotas
that now sit like emperors
in the hot late-July sun.

The red dirt is rusted,
no shade beneath the trees with
all the lower branches
ripped off for firewood and
dogs fight amongst each other
as the service is conducted
on the red flat earth
in the centre of community.

Then night falls
and the kids emerge, creeping out
to the sound of music
pumping from DJ decks
in the community hall,
the new supply shop operator
spinning the tracks, he’s cool,
while torches are flashed
in the dusty darkness and
dozens of faces line the walls.