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Unpredictable powers of non-human world inspire collection


Lyttelton poet Philip Armstrong has won the 2019 Kathleen Grattan Award with his poetry manuscript ‘Sinking Lessons’.

‘Sinking Lessons’ was described by judge Jenny Bornholdt as an ‘accomplished, engaging collection of poems that displays literary skill and a sharp intelligence at work.’

‘There’s great affection for life of all kinds – human and the natural world – coupled with an awareness of the fragility of existence,’ she says.
Philip Armstrong says the poems in his collection are shaped by two main themes: the sea and the agency of the non-human world in general.

‘I grew up in a house beside the Hauraki Gulf, and for the last two decades I’ve lived within sight of Lyttelton Harbour, and the sights and sounds and smells of salt water make their way into my poetry whether I intend it or not’.

‘The other theme linking these poems is my attempt to recognise the active, mobile, lively, unpredictable capacities of the non-human world, from animals and plants through to waste matter and refuse, through to land forms and weather patterns.’

The biennial poetry award from Landfall and the Kathleen Grattan Trust is for an original collection of poems, or one long poem, by a New Zealand or Pacific permanent resident or citizen. Landfall is published by Otago University Press.

Philip Armstrong receives a $10,000 prize and a year’s subscription to Landfall, and Otago University Press will publish his collection in 2020.

For more information about Kathleen Grattan and the history of the award, go to https://www.otago.ac.nz/press/landfall/awards/otago065466.html

About Philip Armstrong

Philip Armstrong works at the University of Canterbury, teaching literature (especially Shakespeare), human–animal studies, and creative writing (including poetry).

He has written a number of scholarly books (two on Shakespeare, and two on animals in literature) as well as a book for a general audience (about sheep in history and culture). In 2011 he won the Landfall Essay Prize for a piece about the Canterbury earthquakes, entitled ‘On Tenuous Ground’. ‘Sinking Lessons’ is his first collection of poetry.

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