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Throat by Ellen van Neerven wins Book of the Year and two other awards at the NSW Premier's Literary Awards 2021
Posted 29.04.2021

Throat by Ellen van Neerven wins Book of the Year and two other awards at the NSW Premier's Literary Awards 2021

UQP would like to offer the biggest of congratulations to Ellen van Neerven whose Throat won the 2021 Book of the Year, The Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry and the Multicultural NSW Award at the 2021 NSW Premier's Literary Awards.

The Kenneth Slessor Prize is offered to a poet for a book of collected poems or for a single poem of substantial length published in book form. The judges included Lachlan Brown, Eunice Andrada and Rico Craig. On Throat:

Throat is a book that extends and expands the possibilities of poetic utterance in Australia. It establishes community with joy. It provides a clarion call for justice. It speaks sensitively to multiple readerships simultaneously. This is an exceptional volume, representing a key moment in the ongoing reckoning with colonial legacies and power structures.

The full comments by the Kenneth Slessor Prize judges can be read here.

The Multicultural NSW Award is offered to a work of any genre, deemed by the judges to have made a significant contribution to Australian literature, poetry, theatre, film, radio or television and which also considers any aspect of the Australian migration experience and/or the aspects of cultural diversity and multiculturalism in Australian society. The judges included Osman Faruqi, Randa Abdel-Fattah and Moreblessing Maturure. Their comments on Throat:

The judging panel was unanimous in its decision to award the prize to Throat. This year’s shortlist is particularly extraordinary, and contains some of the best works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry in recent times, so for Throat to rise to the top is an even greater acknowledgement of how great a work it is. We were overwhelmed with the work’s beauty, honesty and power, and this prize should send a clear message about what the future of literature should look like in this country.

The full comments by the Multicultural NSW Award judges can be read here.

The NSW Premier's Literary Awards' Book of the Year is chosen by the judges from among the winners. Previous winners include Tara June Winch's The Yield and Kim Scott's Taboo. All-round comments for Throat were:

Divided thematically into five parts, Throat reckons with memory, family, sexuality, intergenerational trauma, and intergenerational resistance. Van Neerven’s verse carries the reader through difficult political and emotional terrain with the precision of stark, unwavering language. Through the voice of a queer First Nations identity, condemnations of colonial legacies are laid down with fierce wit and humour. Moments of rage and mourning echo one another, building an uncompromising intensity. Running in the undercurrents is a hope that is bold and vulnerable, moving the speaker to call for mateship in the fight against continuing colonial violence.

In this collection, van Neerven writes with a decided clarity that matches the urgency of their poetics. The lushly interwoven layers of this work create an active conversation between its themes. Careful meditation over stark verse reveals its shapeshifting voices, tones, and forms, leading to a reading experience that is consistently dynamic.