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NPP 2021 anthology

2021 Newcastle Poetry Prize

First Prize $15,000 Lachlan Brown for Any Saturday, 2021: Running Westward’

Second Prize $5,000 Gayelene Carbis for ‘After ‘Still Life with Babette’s Jug #2”

Third Prize $1,000 Christopher (Kit) Kelen for ‘Ataraxia’

2 Commended Awards
Greg McLaren for ‘Autumn Medications’
Eileen Chong for ‘Poem for My Ancestors’

Local Award Trisha Pender for ‘Iphigenia in Triptych’

Harri Jones Memorial Prize for a poet under 36 years
Josie/Jocelyn Deane for ‘Haruspex’

2020 NPP anthology

2020 Newcastle Poetry Prize

First Prize $15,000 Damen O’Brien for Measures of Truth

Second Prize $5,000 Anthony Lawrence for ‘Keepers’

Third Prize $1,000 Rob Edmonds for ‘The Long Jetty Ghazals’

2 Commended Awards
Julie Manning for ‘Groupie Acapella’
Alex Skovron for ‘The Light We Convert’

Local Award Judy Johnson for ‘The Ways You Haven’t Left Me’

Harri Jones Memorial Prize for a poet under 36 years
Peter Ramm for ‘Rock Hopping’

HWC Members’ Award
Christopher Kelen for ‘the bees’

2019 NPP anthology

2019 Newcastle Poetry Prize

First Prize $15,000 Chloe Wilson for ‘Soft Serve’

Second Prize $5,000 Audrey Molloy for ‘Mother, I am Your Mother Now’

Third Prize $1,000 Dimitra Harvey for ‘Triptych’

2 Commended Awards
Anthony Lawrence for ‘Epistemology’
Jayne Fenton Keane for ‘For every year the shark lived another word for snow was born’

Local Award Steve Armstrong for ‘Thirteen Ways to Know my Grandfather’

Harri Jones Memorial Prize for a poet under 36 years
Caitlin Maling for ‘From What We Have Come to Sea: Lizard Island Poems’

HWC Members’ Award
Christopher (Kit) Kelen for ‘Hardanger Set’

NPP anthology 2018

2018 Newcastle Poetry Prize

First Prize $15,000 Ross Gillett for ‘Buying Online’

Equal Second Prize $5,000
John Watson for ‘Five Replies to Miss Moore’
Mark Tredinnick for ‘The River Running Shallow’

2 Commended Awards
Kevin Smith for ‘Thirteen Ways of Knowing My Father’
Joanne Ruppin for ‘Time Travelling with Baby’

Harri Jones Memorial Prize for a poet under 36 years
Chloe Wilson for ‘Memory of Snails’

The Crows in Town 2017 Book Cover NPP

2017 Newcastle Poetry Prize

First prize $15 000 Lucy Williams for ‘the crows in town’

Second prize $5,000 Shari Kocher for ‘Forty Desert Days and Nights and White’

Third prize $1,000 Judith Beveridge for ‘Suddhodana’

Commended Award Debi Hamilton for ‘Sleeping Beauty Lessons’

Local Award Kit Kelen for ‘a field guide to Australian clouds (prolegomenon)’

Harri Jones Memorial Prize for a poet under 36 years
Joan Fleming for ‘A History of the Tanamite People’

HWC Members’ award Magdalena Ball for ‘the clock is a circle’

Dangar Island Garbage Boat 2016 book cover

2016 Newcastle Poetry Prize

First prize $15 000 John Watson for ‘The Dangar Island Garbage Boat’

Second prize $5,000 Ross Gillett for ‘Istán and Other Places’

Third prize $1,000 Greg McLaren for ‘Lake Triptych’

2 Commended Awards
Caitlin Maling for ‘February in Oregon’
Paul Hetherington for ‘Blanche and Henry’

Local Award Judy Johnson for ‘Black Convicts (in Thirteen Syllables)’

Harri Jones Memorial Prize for a poet under 36 years
Katie Mills for ‘Curios’

HWC members’ award Anne Walsh for ‘Wolves In the Cathedral’

History of the Newcastle Poetry Prize

The University of Newcastle provides a prize pool of $25,000
and has been the major sponsor of the Prize since 2005.

In September, 1980, Peter Goldman stood in the middle of Civic Park during the Mattara Festival and handed out an A4 photocopied anthology of poetry to passers-by. The collection featured poems by local Hunter writers with contributors ranging in age from six to eighty-one.

This anthology provided the spark for the first official Mattara Poetry Prize in 1981, overseen by two young academics at the University of Newcastle: Chris Pollnitz and Paul Kavanagh who secured funding for the Prize from the Hunter Water Board and convinced A.D. Hope and G.A. Wilkes to be judges.

From these modest beginnings, the Mattara prize quickly established itself as the most prestigious poetry competition in the country and is now known as the Newcastle Poetry Prize.

The Newcastle Poetry Prize is one of the major events on the literary calendar in Australia, bringing entries from across the nation. Each year, local and national poets compete with internationally recognised names such as Peter Porter, Les Murray, Bruce Dawe, Anthony Lawrence, Mark Tredinnick, Lily Brett, Robert Adamson and Judith Beveridge.

No less illustrious has been the list of judges casting their eye over the entries, including Christopher Pollintz, Peter Porter, Chris Wallace-Crabbe, Paul Kavanagh, Les Murray, Dame Leonie Kramer, Fay Zwicky, Dorothy Hewett, Antigone Kefala and Robert Gray, Kim Cheng-Boey, Jennifer Harrison, Mark Tredinnick and Anna Kerdijk-Nicholson.

Coordinated by the Hunter Writers Centre since 2002, 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 Australia.

Prize pool
One of the most lucrative poetry prizes in Australia, the Newcastle Poetry Prize offers a $25,000 prize pool with a first place award of $15,000, a second prize of $5,000 and third prize of $1,000. In addition, the $250 Local Award is given to a poet who resides in the Hunter Region. For young poets, The Harri Jones Memorial Prize awards $500 for the best poem by a poet under the age of 36. 

Harri Jones , poetHarri Jones Memorial Prize  

In 2011, the Harri Jones Memorial Prize was incorporated into the Newcastle Poetry Prize and awarded to the best poem in the anthology by a poet under the age of 36.  This prize was set up in 1965 after the tragic early death of T.H. (Harri) Jones.  He was a Welsh poet, critic and lecturer in the English department at what was then a college of the University of NSW, subsequently to become the University of Newcastle. In the time from his arrival from the UK in 1959 Harri had a huge impact on the cultural and literary life of Newcastle. He is remembered not only for his own poetry (most recently published in the Complete Poems of T.H.Jones), but also for his virtuosity as a reader and a lecturer. He was known to hold his listeners riveted with his fine Welsh voice whether in class or at private readings. His friends and family set up a fund after his death to support a perpetual prize in his memory.

 Thomas Henry (Harri) Jones was born in a remote area of Wales in 1921, the eldest of five children and the only son in a poor rural family. He won scholarships to secondary school in Builth Wells and then to university in Aberystwyth. His studies were interrupted by World War II when he served in the Navy. He met his wife, Madeleine, when they were demobbed after the war. After completing his Master’s degree in the post-war years, he taught English to returned servicemen at the Naval Dockyards in Portsmouth, England. He and Madeleine moved to Newcastle NSW in 1959 with their three young daughters. Harri had obtained a lectureship in the Department of English of the then University College of Newcastle, an offshoot of the University of New South Wales. This was meant to be a short-term move, with the hope of returning to Britain when Harri secured a lectureship there.

Harri is a well-known Anglo-Welsh poet and in addition to his books of poetry he is well represented in anthologies of poetry in Australia and elsewhere. He published his first volume of poetry in 1957. His fourth and last was published posthumously in 1966. He was very well regarded as a lecturer despite the alcoholism that marred his latter years and ended with his untimely death by drowning in 1965 at the age of 43. After his death, family and friends donated money in his memory to set up a poetry prize to continue in perpetuity. He had a huge impact on his students, several of whom went on to fine careers of their own as writers and academics.


In the words of the late Novocastrian poet, Bill Iden, “Newcastle’s environment makes its poets”.

“The Newcastle Poetry Prize has brought many fine Australian poets to national attention… It not only gives much needed financial reward to the winning poet but increases their media profile and likelihood of achieving further publication.”
~ Mike Ladd, Poetica, ABC Radio National 

“It proves that there is poetry in money after all, that a major prize like the Newcastle Poetry Prize can call in being poems that seem to say something that has never been said before, or say something that we all know in such new and memorable ways that it reads like a new knowledge, a new sense of future.”
~ Jennifer Harrison and Kim Cheng Boey, 2012 judges

“The Newcastle Poetry Prize is a unique award not only because it attracts submissions from an eclectic and diverse range of Australian writers each year but also because it publishes an anonymously selected collection of the best poems. This year we celebrate the award’s 30th anniversary and we appreciatively note the award’s longevity, its reputation and prestige.”
~ Jennifer Harrison and Keri Glastonbury, 2011 judges

“Australian poetry is emerging as one of the country’s most significant cultural achievements. There will come a time when the part played in this by the Newcastle Poetry Prize will be part of our national cultural history… No other city in Australia is so closely associated with such an important prize. The fact that Newcastle can manage a prize like this, and neither Sydney, nor Melbourne, for instance, can, is a matter for some wry observation.”
~ Martin Langford, NSW Poetry Development Officer

“It is no exaggeration to say that this Prize places Newcastle in the forefront of Australian poetry patronage. It encourages by rewarding excellent writing, it recognizes innovation, it garners new readers of poetry and new writers, and it helps to launch many careers, since being included is the year’s touchstone for excellence in poetry. It was the publication of three of my poems in the 1983 anthology that set me firmly on my path as an established poet.”
~ Jan Owen, 2008 Open Section Judge

“The Newcastle Poetry Prize is seen throughout this country as offering the major award for individual poems or suites of poems in Australia. Over the years it has consistently attracted the best poetic talents this country has produced. The reputation of this prize has put Newcastle on the map in cultural circles.”
~ Ron Pretty AM, Australian Poetry Centre

‘It’s always a delight to be short-listed for the Newcastle Poetry Prize, which is, I feel, Australia’s most significant poetry award. Some would use the word ‘prestigious’ rather than ‘significant’, but poetry isn’t and shouldn’t be about prestige. It’s about understanding what it is to be human. In this regard, the Newcastle Poetry Prize is unique in that it allows significant space to explore our humanity by encouraging the submission of extended pieces of poetry. I and so many other poets are grateful for The University of Newcastle’s ongoing and substantial sponsorship of such a prize. I would also like to thank the judges, Judith Beveridge and Robert Gray, for their acknowledgement of the place of prose poetry in our literature by short-listing my work for this award. I see a prose poem as a poem with one long line. It often finds itself out in the cold, neither regarded as one thing nor the other, and I’m delighted to see this important form acknowledged here.”
~ John Foulcher, Commended award, 2015

“At the 2006 prize giving night, the University of Newcastle announced that in recognition of the value of the Newcastle Poetry Prize brings to the region as well as Australian poetry, it will continue its sponsorship a further five years, up until 2011. This was welcome news to anyone who believes in supporting the Arts, something not afforded in some countries at all. Sitting in the audience I was very proud to be living in Newcastle.”
~ Debra Hely, Past President of Poetry at the Pub, Newcastle

“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.

“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.

“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

Anthologies and the Judging Process
The Newcastle Poetry Prize is unique among Australian poetry prizes for producing an accompanying anthology. The Anthology provides a rare opportunity for being published outside of the literary journals and internet magazines. Alongside UQP’s Best Australian Poetry and BlackInc’s Best Australian Poems, the Newcastle Poetry Prize Anthology offers an annual snapshot of the thriving state of Australian Poetry, and in particular longer poems. In the words of Highly Commended poet in the 2007 Competition and The Australian’s Poetry Editor, Barry Hill: “The Newcastle Poetry Prize should be congratulated for being such a patron of the long poem — a phenomenon which helps sustain seriousness in Australian poetry, and which tests judges as they should be tested.”

A distinctive feature of the Newcastle Poetry Prize is that it is judged anonymously, meaning judges do not see the names of poets on each entry. This anonymous judging process gives both established and emerging poets an equal opportunity for recognition and publication. Each year new judges are selected to judge the Prize.

The University of Newcastle provides a prize pool of $25,000 and has been the major sponsor of the Prize since 2005.

Past winners of the Newcastle Poetry Prize:
1981 – Kevin Hart
1982 – Peter Kocan
1983 – Craig Powell
1984 – John A Scott
1985 – Diane Fahey
1986 – Lily Brett
1987 – Dane Thwaites & Tracy Ryan
1988 – Kristopher Saknussem
1989 – John Bennett
1991 – Dorothy Hewett
1995 – Roland Leach
1996 – Philip Salom & Roland Leach & David Brooks
1997 – Anthony Lawrence
1999 – Brook Emery
2000 – Philip Salom
2002 – Emma Jones & John Watson & Jo Gardiner & Judy Johnson
2004 – Peter Kirkpatrick
2005 – Emma Jones
2006 – Nathan Shepherdson
2007 – Mark Tredinnick
2008 – David Musgrave
2009 – Patricia Sykes
2010 – Duncan Hose
2011 – Mark Tredinnick
2012 – David Musgrave
2013 – Jennifer Compton
2014 – Debi Hamilton and Anthony Lawrence
2015 – Anthony Lawrence
2016 – John Watson
2017 – Lucy Williams
2018 – Ross Gillett
2019 – Chloe Wilson
2020 – Damen O’Brien
2021 – Lachlan Brown 


Judges Past judges of the Newcastle Poetry Prize:
2022 – Aidan Coleman & Alison Whittaker
2021 – Toby Fitch & Jill Jones
2020 – Mike Ladd & Judith Beveridge
2019 – Judy Johnson & Jaya Savige

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