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Unbelievers, or The Moor

2015 - Shortlisted


Judges' comments

Over the past two decades John Mateer has singularly defined an Australian poetic sensibility that reaches west through the Indian Ocean antipodes to South Africa, north into the subcontinent and Asia and obliquely through modernism, postmodernism and postcolonialism. In Unbelievers, or The Moor Mateer closely follows the weave of medieval Islam, Christianity and Judaism in Moorish Spain and Portugal, dreaming and speaking of concrete but beautifully porous cultures, geographies and histories.

This is the work of a mature artist whose control of form and genre underpins authentic, intelligent poetry that challenges our appreciation and understanding of humanity, our shared passions and ephemerality, and our ancient relationships with the earth. Mateer is refreshingly unafraid of romantic self-consciousness. His poems remix the tension and possibility of the nomadic and syncretic, the ‘perpetually/renewable visas and self-conscious amnesia’ that ultimately underpin encounters between life’s quotidian exotica, the memorable and the mundane. Mateer’s poems are exceptionally sensitive and smart, their positive, encultured and enculturing alloy engendering a universe that is vitally animated and irrevocably human.