Shortlist year: 2017

Shortlist category: Poetry

Published by: Giramondo Publishing


Antigone Kefala is highly regarded for the intensity of her vision, and her minimalism. Fragments is her first collection of poems in almost twenty years, since the publication of New and Selected Poems in 1998. It follows her 2008 memoir Sydney Journals, of which one critic wrote, ‘Kefala can render the music of the moment so perfectly, she leaves one almost singing with the pleasure of it’. This skill in capturing the moment is just as evident in Fragments, with its linguistic precision, its heightened perception and sense of drama.

About the author

Antigone Kefala

Antigone Kefala has written four works of fiction, including The First Journey, The Island and Summer Visit, and four poetry collections, The Alien, Thirsty Weather, European Notebook and Absence: New and Selected Poems as well as the non-fiction work Sydney Journals. Born in Romania of Greek parents, she lived in Greece and New Zealand before coming to Australia.

Judges’ comments

Antigone Kefala’s Fragments is a searing enactment of memory. Time demolishes us all in little doses, so the poet contends, but the past is “a poison / we thirst for”. Shards of memory conjure the world in various states of evanescence: dreams evoke empty rooms in old houses, the floorboards gone, even the walls are thinning to mist – here and there the cry of birds pierce the enveloping silence.

We, like the poems, may “sink in light, disappear in silence”, but Kefala bids us to recall the “glossy beings” of our younger selves who head into the future innocent to what awaits us.

Kefala astounds with imagery that is intense, unsettling and always unexpected: at dusk in the coastal town of Derveni on the Peloponnese peninsula, fishing boats are “massive dark stones / planted / in a field of moonstone”. Light, fire and flowers are recurring motifs, as is the theme of “self-sufficiency”, which in the fierce austerity of Kefala’s mind finds its ultimate embodiment in death.

Fragments is a wonder of minimalism in which we find ourselves, like the poet, dancing in memory rooms growing bigger and bigger. It is a major work by a senior poet whose poetry continues to fascinate.