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BLAKWORK wins the Queensland Literary Award: Judith Wright Calanthe Poetry Award

Tue, Nov 12, 2019


We’re thrilled to announce BLAKWORK by Alison Whittaker has won the Judith Wright Calanthe Poetry Award at the Queensland Literary Awards.

Gomeroi poet, Alison Whittaker was named the winner in a ceremony at the State Library of Queensland tonight (12 November), for her collection BLAKWORK published by Magabala in 2018.

‘We are honoured to know Alison and to publish her words. Deepest congratulations to her for this most deserving win.  We’re particularly proud because Blakwork is the first Indigenous poetry collection to have won this award and that Alison is being recognised alongside such a phenomenal line-up of Indigenous talent’, said Magabala Books Publisher, Rachel Bin Salleh.

Accepting the award, Alison said:

BLAKWORK was a book that is not by any measure my own. It wouldn’t have floated at any other publisher than Magabala under Rachel Bin Salleh and the Magabala Board under Chairperson Aunty Edie Wright — nor with any other editor than the genius Grace Lucas Pennington.

I must thank from the bottom of my heart both Magabala and Grace for co-conspiring with me to pull off a book that’s so fundamentally weird and confrontational.

There are days I barely believe we got away with it. We only get away with it because of the tireless work of blak poets before us, who made space, showed us what we could do with our audacity and gave us the courage to live it out.

Look what we can do, with not only Indigenous writers, but whole structures of Indigenous literary collaboration. Look what we do when we’re in control of our wordwork from start to finish’.

Awarding BLAKWORK, the Judith Wright Calanthe Poetry Award judges made the following comments:

‘Writing this powerful makes the world afresh and urges for a complete decolonisation of the mind. A contemporary cornerstone work that gives up numerous angles and portals through which the reader can traverse its power, intellect and compassion.

Blakwork has a vital, musical pulse that connected such a varied array of poems — this is such essential reading: experimental but accessible, hopeful but hard-hitting.’

BLAKWORK has been highly acclaimed since its release in 2018 and this win follows a swathe of accolades including shortlisting’s for the 2019 Prime Minister's Literary Awards (Poetry), 2019 Victorian Premier's Literary Awards (Indigenous Writing Prize) and 2019 ABIA's Small Publishers' Adult Book of the Year, as well as winning the 2019 Mascara Avant-Garde Literary Award.

Alison Whittaker will receive $10,000. 

Magabala also congratulates Magabala authors Carl Merrison and Hakea Hustler (and illustrator Dub Leffler) for the shortlisting of Black Cockatoo in the Griffith University Children’s Book Award.

Magabala congratulates fellow First Nations award winners Melissa Luckashenko and Ellen van Neervan. Other Queensland Literary Award winners here

Read more about 'Blakwork' and purchase here.