Shortlist year: 2018

Shortlist category: Poetry

Published by: Giramondo Publishing

Anxiety lurks in domestic spaces, inhabiting the most ordinary objects, like a drillbit or a phone charger, drawing our attention to the bruised body and its projecting parts. The elements of language take on new intensity in a series of 'overheard' poems fraught with their speakers' vulnerability and their attempts at resolution. Wright walks us through the places where this drama unfolds, in shopping centres, cafes, hospitals and bedrooms, in the inner-city and south-west suburbs of Sydney, presenting them as sites of love as well as sadness, and succour and strength as well as unease.

About the author


Fiona Wright

Fiona Wright is a writer, editor and critic from Sydney. Her book of essays Small Acts of Disappearance: Essays on Hunger won the 2016 Nita B. Kibble Award for Women Writers, the Queensland Literary Award for non-fiction, and was shortlisted for the Stella Prize and the NSW Premier's Douglas Stewart Award. Her first poetry collection, Knuckled, won the 2012 Dame Mary Gilmore Award. She has recently completed a PhD at Western Sydney University's Writing & Society Research Centre. Her poems and essays have been published in The Australian, and in the literary journals MeanjinIslandOverlandThe Lifted Brow, Seizure and HEAT.

Judges’ comments

Domestic Interior by Fiona Wright invites us to observe Australian life through the lens of the suburban domestic. Wright's aim is not to replicate notions of domestic space as one that inhibits its female occupants, but rather one that, if properly calibrated to the moment, is copious in its catalogue of energies. Wright's meditation on domestic interiors extends to the interiority of the self as she turns her gaze outdoors. 'Sometimes a reorientation', she says, 'presents another face to the sea'. In 'Winter Pastoral' she juxtaposes the concrete imagery of road kill—'dead wombats bouldered / and wild-eyed wallabies / vaulted the boundary fence'—against the unexpected marvel of the sky: 'I'd forgotten how stars giddy / out here,' she says. Finding herself in Berlin, the poet is disoriented but enthralled inside a foreign language: a woman on a train hands her 'the word Pfingsrosen, / a peony plucked from her own front yard'. The poet later recalls 'a white lace dress. We're drinking gin,' she says, 'muddled with cherries'. Intoxicating in its imagery, Domestic Interior affirms language, even its smallest components, as the prime constituents of our inner world.