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A Vicious Example

2015 - Shortlisted


Judges' comments

An outstanding first collection, A Vicious Example is a vibrant, at times unsettling, but ultimately intimate and sympathetic panegyric to the city of Sydney. Opening with ‘ladies armed with fans’ performing morning exercises at Burwood Park, the book sweeps through a dark, labyrinthine psychogeography. It travels from the exotic suburban restlessness of Dulwich Hill and St Marys to the couplings and intersections of Anzac Bridge, Wynyard, Circular Quay and Central and the waterways of Darling Harbour, the Tank Stream and Maroubra Beach.

Michael Aiken writes intimate portraits that honour and dissect everyday life; their precision reflected in his meticulous prosody, lineation and ideation. His poems, many composed while working as a security guard, are singularly refreshing for their repudiation of modish, routtine sentimentality and faux-poignant moralising. They erupt at the convergence of the prosaic and the extraordinary, observing human fragility, agitation and desire in an urban theatre constantly permeated by nature. A Vicious Example is a daring and subtly acute book that makes a distinctive contribution to contemporary Australian poetry.