Shortlist year: 2014

Shortlist category: Poetry

Published by: Pitt Street Poetry

A little wonder-bomb arrived tonight,

Lobbed wailing into corridors of white;

Distilling all those possibilities:

Only this head, these hands, this nose, these knees:

Unique and irreversible and here.

Serenity explodes. I need a beer.

Judith Wright’s better-known works include poems such as ‘Woman to Child’. Yet, certainly when compared with Melinda Smith’s poems, Wright’s seem distant, as if she is observing her experience rather than living it, and determined to make it universal rather than personal.

Melinda Smith’s poems about motherhood, in contrast, are vital and vivid and clearly the product of the agonies and joys of a woman’s life lived and felt to the full. For those readers accustomed only to the euphemised or sentimentalised views of motherhood which still dominate mainstream culture, some of these poems may come as a shock.

George Thomas, Quadrant

About the author


Melinda Smith

Melinda Smith won the Australian Prime Minister's Literary Award for her fourth book of poems, Drag down to unlock or place an emergency call (Pitt St Poetry, 2013). Her work has been widely anthologised both inside and outside Australia and has been translated into Indonesian, Chinese, Burmese and Italian. She is based in the ACT and is currently poetry editor of The Canberra Times.

Judges’ comments

Readers of Drag Down to Unlock or Place an Emergency Call will be rewarded by a book full of unexpected and richly varied pleasures.

There are poems with a lightness of touch, and a self-deprecating tone, but there are also poems that deal with more serious matters. There are skillfully rhymed poems, haikus and highly experimental free verse.

From its range of technique and tone to its depth of ideas, imagery and emotion, this collection announces the arrival of a major new poet.