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Vincent O'Sullivan wins major poetry award


Thursday 21 July 2005

Vincent O'Sullivan wins major poetry award

Vincent O'Sullivan's acclaimed collection, Nice morning for it, Adam, has won the Poetry category in the Montana New Zealand Book Awards 2005. The announcement came this morning on the dawn of Montana Poetry Day, Friday 22 July.

The judges said that O'Sullivan was an extraordinary voice in New Zealand literature, and perhaps, only perhaps, this is best seen in his poetry. The judging panel comprises of former publisher Graham Beattie (convenor) and Wellington writers and critics John McCrystal and Laura Kroetsch.

They also commented that judging the Poetry category this year was particularly difficult as most of the 29 submissions came from established and respected poets. "This year's finalists are all senior poets," they said. "Each of them has written a number of collections, and all have established their place within the history of our letters." The other two finalists in the category were C K Stead's The Red Tram and Murray Edmond's Fool Moon.

Nice morning for it, Adam, published by Victoria University Press, goes on to be judged alongside the winner of the Fiction category for the ultimate prize, the Deutz Medal for Fiction or Poetry. This is the first time poetry has been eligible for this major New Zealand literary award. In past years it has been judged amongst non fiction categories for the Montana Medal for Non Fiction. The winner of the Deutz Medal for Fiction or Poetry will be announced, along with the winner of the fiction and all non fiction categories, at a gala dinner at the Town Hall in Wellington on Monday 25 July. As winner of the Poetry category, O'Sullivan will be presented with a monetary prize of $5,000 at the awards ceremony.

Vincent O'Sullivan is one of New Zealand's leading writers. He graduated from the universities of Auckland and Oxford. He is the author of two novels - Let the River Stand, which won the 1994 Montana Book Awards, and Believers to the Bright Coast - and many plays, collections of short stories and poems. His poetry collection, Seeing You Asked won the Poetry prize at the 1999 Montana New Zealand Book Awards, the same year that Believers to the Bright Coast was runner up for the Deutz Medal for Fiction. His biography of John Mulgan, Long Journey to the Border, was a finalist in last year's awards.

O'Sullivan has a well-earned reputation as a thoughtful and incisive editor and critic. He has been awarded a series of writer's residencies and research fellowships and in 1994 he was the Katherine Mansfield fellow. He was appointed Director of Victoria University's Stout Research Centre in 1997 and is now an Emeritus Professor of English. O'Sullivan was made a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2000. In June 2004 he was awarded the Creative New Zealand Michael King Writers' Fellowship. He lives in Wellington.

Judges' Comments: Writing in Landfall Michael Husle described an O'Sullivan poem as 'the marriage of relaxed language and form to radical subject matter.' This most recent collection certainly bears this out. The poems in this collection are, as described by Peter Simpson [category advisor], 'subtly linked by a series of aesthetic, philosophical and metaphysical preoccupations'. O'Sullivan begins by evoking Eden, the fall, and the fate of man, and he does this with the wry ease that characterises so much of his work. This collection wrestles the secular and the metaphysical, idealism, time and death. There is also, and we suspect O'Sullivan would deny it, a hint of the autobiographical. There are poems here which don't so much reveal the poet as evoke a thoughtful intimacy that we want to associate with a 'real' world. The reader knows that for the poet this is the point, but we still want to think otherwise. O'Sullivan is an extraordinary voice in New Zealand letters, and perhaps, only perhaps, this is best seen in his poetry.

The principal sponsors of the Montana New Zealand Book Awards are Montana wines and Creative New Zealand. The awards are managed by Booksellers New Zealand and supported by Book Publishers Association of New Zealand, the New Zealand Society of Authors and Book Tokens (NZ) Ltd.


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