Tag Archives: Sarah Broom Poetry Award

Finalists for The Sarah Broom Poetry Prize 2015


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The judges are delighted to announce the three finalists for the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize 2015.


The prize attracted almost 200 entries from across the spectrum of New Zealand poets, from the new and emerging to the established and the iconic. The shortlist was chosen by the 2015 guest judge, Irish poet Vona Groarke.


The finalists are:

Diana Bridge: a Wellington-based poet, the author of five collections, including aloe & other poems (2009).

Alice Miller: a New Zealand poet based in Vienna, whose first book The Limits was published in 2012.

Ashleigh Young: a Wellington-based editor, essayist, and poet, whose first collection of poetry, Magnificent Moon, was published in 2012.


“The Sarah Broom Poetry Prize is about celebrating poetry,” says judging panel member Sarah Ross. “The diversity of the entries received, and the tonal and formal complexity of the best work, its deftness, its moments of insight, poignancy, and humour – all of this has made the judging process enormously rewarding. So too has working with the generous and perceptive Vona Groarke.”


The Sarah Broom Poetry Prize aims to make a substantial ongoing contribution to supporting poetry in New Zealand. The value of the prize is $12,000 in 2015.


The three finalists will read in a free session at the Auckland Writers Festival on Sunday 17 May from 1.30-2.30pm in the Upper NZI Room, Aotea Centre, Auckland. Vona Groarke will announce the winner at this event

Queries should be emailed to: enquiries@sarahbroom.co.nz

For photos or other details of finalists please email sarahceross@gmail.com

For more information about Sarah Broom or the Poetry Prize visit www.sarahbroom.co.nz




Diana Bridge

Photo credit: Simon Woolf

Diana Bridge has published five collections of poems, the latest of which, aloe & other poems, came out in 2009. She was awarded the Lauris Edmond Memorial Award in 2010, for her distinguished contribution to New Zealand poetry, and her essay, ‘An attachment to China’ won the 2014 Landfall essay competition. Diana is based in Wellington.

Vona Groarke writes: “Whether it is the violence of medieval history, the engagement with nature, or a re-imagining of Ovid that is the subject, Diana Bridge’s poetry has authority and elegance. Technically sophisticated, this work is complex but never obscure; lyrically charged but never sentimental. It is unflinching in its observational commitment, but also enjoys its ability to fashion unusual and arresting imagery. There is a kind of fierce beauty to this work, alongside its rigorous intellect and formal grace. In a description that rings true of much of her work, her poem ‘Prospero’s Stones’ notes, ‘driven phrases that lap /around each other’: this is a poetry that is linguistically alert, but that also remembers to ply sound and meaning into the kind of poetic weave that is colourful and playful, but also careful, thoughtful and wise.”



Alice Miller

Photo Credit: Dylan Whiting

Alice Miller’s first book The Limits was published by Auckland University Press and Shearsman in 2014. She is a graduate of the International Institute of Modern Letters and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Last year she was a Grimshaw Sargeson Fellow, a Visiting Writer at Massey University, and a resident at the Michael King Centre. She is based in Vienna.

Vona Groarke writes: “The ‘I’ and ‘We’ of Alice Miller’s poetry are rarely familiar and never predictable. The same is true of her poems, which are fully-charged and teem with surprises of imagery, narrative and language. Nothing moves in a straight line in this work: instead, the poems tend to turn on small pockets of beguiling mystery. Characters emerge out of an apparent nowhere and do the darndest things before they slip off again, as if in secret, out of the sightline of the poem. It all makes for an intense and intensely involving experience: the lines are so well managed and the narrative so deftly and subtly manoeuvred as to leave one ruffled, but pleasantly so. What might seem like aphorism turns out to be a strange and complicated proposition, as in ‘Saving’ where, ‘some of the moments we cling to most / are the futures we never let happen’. This is work that turns on a sixpence, and that manages each of its fascinating turns with assurance and aplomb.”



Ashleigh Young

Ashleigh Young is an editor, essayist, and poet. Her first collection of poetry, Magnificent Moon, was published by Victoria University Press in 2012, and recent work appears in Sport, The Griffith Review, Five Dials, and Tell You What. She co-teaches a workshop in science writing at Victoria University with science writer Rebecca Priestley, and she blogs, mostly about cycling, at eyelashroaming.com. Ashleigh is based in Wellington.


Vona Groarke writes: “Ashleigh Young’s poems defy their tight spaces to offer expansive and resonant narratives. Hers is a poetic world that derives great charge and vigour from proper nouns – named people and places -and specific, beautifully delineated detail that, as in flash fiction, sparks an entire world to life. People talk to each other in these poems, and whole lives get encapsulated in the kind of language that is as exact as it is vivid, as careful as it concise. Take for instance, ‘Electrolarynx’ with its arresting line: ‘Then our silence made a condemned building of us all’, or the opening of ‘Become road’: ‘When the car stops we are beginning already to become road’. These are poems that begin with the familiar, and then carefully walk it to the edges of perception, where it catches the light in arresting, singular and finely memorable ways.”

The judges for the 2015 Sarah Broom Poetry Prize

The judges for the 2015 Sarah Broom Poetry Prize are:



S HuntVona Groarke
Vona is an Irish poet. She has published six collections with Gallery Press, the latest being X, (2014), a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. Others include Spindrift (2010), Flight (2002) – which won the Michael Hartnett Award, and her translation from Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill’s eighteenth-century Irish, Lament for Art O’Leary (2008), which is currently being adapted as an opera by Irish composer, Irene Buckley. In the U.S., she publishes with Wake Forest University Press. Her poems have recently appeared in Yale Review, The New Yorker, Kenyon Review, Boston Review, The Guardian, The Times and Poetry Review. She teaches poetry in the Centre for New Writing at the University of Manchester in the UK and is the editor of Poetry Ireland Review.
S RossSarah Ross, BA (Hons) Canterbury, MSt (Distinction) Oxford, DPhil Oxford
Sarah is a Senior Lecturer in English at Victoria University of Wellington. She specialises in early modern literature, poetry, and women’s writing, and she is the editor of Katherine Austen’s Book M (ACMRS, 2011) and the author of numerous articles on early modern women’s writing, poetry, and manuscript culture.

M GleissnerMichael Gleissner, LLB (Hons), MBA, CPA
Michael met Sarah in 1990 and they married in 1999 before moving to New Zealand. Michael is General Manager Corporate Strategy at the New Zealand Superannuation Fund. Previously he held Chief Financial Officer roles at Pacific Fibre and Sealord Group and various roles at Fonterra. Michael has also worked as a lawyer in London and Auckland. He is an avid supporter of the Arts, and shared a particular strong interest in poetry with Sarah. Michael lives in Auckland with his and Sarah’s three young children.

Kirsti Whalen makes a moving tribute to Sarah Broom

Kirsti has just posted this on her blog. She has the writing life within her, her mother would be proud, and as she took to the stage on Sunday, it shone out for us all.

In Memory of Sarah Broom

It was with a mild hangover and a brimming heart that I greeted the day following my first writers festival reading. I attended a great many luminous events, but read as part of the celebration of the inaugural Sarah Broom Poetry Prize.

I feel incredibly honoured to have been shortlisted for this very special award, especially alongside such distinguished poets as Emma Neale and C.K. Stead, the winner, to whom I offer my utmost, and sincere, congratulations.

This event held a special significance for me, in so many ways. Before I went on stage, my dad told me to do it for my mum, and to imagine her at the back of the room.

I lost my mum to cancer six years ago. Knowing how short these years feel only makes me more amazed at the courage of Sarah’s family and friends, creating this tribute to her life such a short time after she left it.

My mother was a staunch supporter of my writing, and in the diary I inherited after her death she stressed that she hoped I could find a life in which I wrote, above anything else. When I was informed that I had won the Katherine Mansfield Young Writers Award back in 2006, I remember clutching her hands and jumping up and down in the entrance of our old home, with shared excitement.

The submission that I sent for the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize was titled ‘i’m only here because she isn’t,’ a line from one of my poems. This statement is applicable to my both my mother and Sarah, two women who fought their cancer with incredible bravery, and both, in different ways, left a legacy of language.

See the rest of her blog here.

Emma Neale on being shortlisted for the Sarah Broom Poetry Award

This is a terrific piece of writing. Emma offers us a moving tribute to Sarah, her love of her poetry and a poem– amongst other things.

‘Now that I am settling down a bit from the giddy whirl of the Auckland Readers and Writers Festival, I want to repeat here how much admiration I have for Michael Gleissner and the other trust members who set up the Sarah Broom Award. To do this so soon after losing Sarah must have taken an enormous amount of energy and focus at a very raw and vulnerable time. I know from all the positive feedback and well-wishing I was lucky enough to receive even as a short-listee, that the wider poetry community has been highly aware of the award and the chance it offers to local poets.

It was a hoot to meet Sam Hunt at the session, and Kirsti Whalen showed really professional slam-background confidence. I’ve owned Sam’s poems since I was 13: though back then I didn’t have a clue what all the fuss about love and desire was. Adults seemed tortured by such bizarre emotions. Sam not only takes poetry to the people but also does a mean tap dance — look him up on YouTube. Also his interview on National Radio about the Sarah Broom Award is a marvellous recording. It’s the kind of radio that makes you forget how to multi-task. You just end up frozen in place, dishcloth at the window, struck in an attitude of intense distraction.’

See the rest of Emma Neale’s post here.

My thoughts on the Sarah Broom Poetry Award

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At the Auckland Writers Festival on Sunday, Sam Hunt announced the winner of the inaugural Sarah Broom Poetry Award.

Michael Gleissner spoke about the genesis of this award in his introductory remarks. He wanted to create something in honour of his wife, poet Sarah Broom (1972-2013) that would benefit the poetry community. This award is his invention with the help of various friends of Sarah’s from around the world. He worked hard to get funding and to put the award in place.

On the entry form, Michael made the aim of the award clear: That the award was to honour a NZ poet whether established or emerging and to provide a financial contribution towards writing a poetry manuscript. This then is an award open to any NZ poet regardless of age, style, experience or location.

I was delighted and moved as a friend and admirer of Sarah and her work to be part of the award panel. More than anything I wanted to help get this award off the ground in any way I could. My background role was to make suggestions for Sam Hunt, and to do any jobs that cropped up (such as filming Karl). It was an absolute pleasure to read all the submissions and as I have already said on this blog it prompted me to start a new feature, Poem Friday. I want to put you in touch with some of the astonishing poetry I have come across and will come across. NZ poetry is thriving.

On this occasion, Sam Hunt was Head Judge (or Chief Judge as he wittily said on Sunday) and it fell to him to pick the winner and indeed have the final decision on the shortlist–no easy task.

What blew me away about the Sunday session was hearing three very fine poets read. I am already a long-time fan of the poetry of Emma Neale but to hear the musicality of those poems  lift and soar through the air again made my skin prickle. I had not heard Kirsti before (bar a YouTube clip) but I now have her voice in my head with all its gorgeous intonations and I cannot wait to see her get a book out. I had filmed Karl but found myself catching my breath as he began to read. At his home I had been wondering if his cat was going to leap onto the couch (just as he read the word ‘cat’) but she settled back on the floor (or he!).

In my School Session on the Wednesday, I talked about two NZ writers who have shaped me as a poet. Yes, we were doing ‘sound’ and I was exploring the way poetry hits and hooks the ear– so to talk abut the aural delights of Margaret Mahy and Bill Manhire was so perfectly apt. But these two writers have also gifted us with a generosity that is humbling– a way of inhabiting the world with empathy, attentiveness to those around, an ability to listen to others, to support and promote, to be good and to be kind, to be gracious, to celebrate the power and versatility of words. It seemed to me I saw this in Emma and Kirsti. They embraced the ethos of the award to honour, celebrate and promote poetry. I was in awe of their graciousness and aplomb. And I found Karl’s speech very moving, particularly when he said he hoped the award would keep the name and poetry of Sarah alive to us all (off the cuff, a second after I told him he had won!).

Awards are tricky things– they bring out the best and the worst in people (thus the barrage of aggressive texts, emails and face-to-face comments I have endured over the past weeks and yesterday).

I want to thank everyone who has, in the spirit of the Award, remembered Sarah (and her poems!), who has opened up to the glorious poetry of the three finalists, and who has witnessed the way poetry can touch us. I did feel a little sad at the end of the session, I was holding onto my memory of Sarah, as I was hugging my publisher. I cannot thank Michael enough for the extraordinary amount of work he has had to do in what must have been a demanding and difficult year for him and his three young children. And to the real treat of getting to know Dr Sarah Ross, the other panelist judge, from Victoria University. The poetry community has benefited from this– not just the winning poet and not just the three finalists.

Thank you.

from my IPhone on the day (just learning!):











Booknotes Unbound showcases Sarah Broom finalists (with poems and notes)

Sarah Ross and I have contributed to an article on the Sarah Broom Poetry Award for Booknotes Unbound (the New Zealand book Council online magazine). It includes a poem by each of the finalists.

Booknotes Unbound here