Shortlist year: 2018

Shortlist category: Poetry

Published by: Black Pepper

Stephen Edgar's nimble-footed Transparencies extends his exploration of the world's visual aspect, both in itself and as a screen for the mind's projections. He questions whether reality coincides always with its appearances. The transparencies of the title are both the day lit images of the natural world and the occasions they offer us to look through them, or into the world within this one. Edgar's poems look out and reach in. They probe yet have an exquisite ear. As well as moving poems on his late mother, Transparencies has many pleasures like waiting for the delayed rhyme on 'David Attenborough'.

About the author


Stephen Edgar

Stephen Edgar was born in 1951 in Sydney, where he grew up. His collections are: Queuing for the Mudd ClubAncient MusicCorrupted TreasuresWhere the Trees WereLost in the ForegroundOther SummersHistory of the DayEldershaw (which was shortlisted for the Queensland Literary Award 2013, co-winner of the Colin Roderick Award 2013 and shortlisted for the Prime Minister's Literary Awards 2014) and Exhibits of The Sun (shortlisted for the Prime Minister's Literary Awards 2015).

Judges’ comments

Stephen Edgar's Transparencies is a commanding demonstration of the poet's signature formal control. In poems that follow strict metrical and stanzaic patterning of his own invention, Edgar demonstrates that formal verse can house great originality and surprise, often through his comic and unexpected detonations of rhyme. But the poems here move beyond mere technical accomplishment into the emotive and tender territory of grief and loss. His self-imposed constraints provide a moving frame through which we see a son's heartache at a mother with 'only one day' remaining to her, 'waiting through the weight of each dead minute'. The poems also rove elsewhere—through film and literature, art and place—always questioning the angles of perception and whether we can trust what we see. This scepticism is frequently turned inward, and we are presented with complex instances of self-portraiture, where the poet looks into the mirror and finds a mortal and fragile subject: 'the holder / of an expiring lease'. Transparencies demonstrates that the immense control Edgar has developed across his body of work and how it has matured into fluid grace