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Comfort Food

2017 - Shortlisted


Judges' comments

This first collection of poems by Ellen van Neerven delivers on the promise of her previous publications. Van Neerven, a Munanjali woman, offers a fresh poetic voice, with images that reach (to borrow Wallace Stevens’ phrase) not for ‘ideas about the thing’, but for ‘the thing itself’. Readers are invited into her world: one that has a history and tradition stretching back for millennia, and where food becomes both an actuality and a metaphor for home and family, and the comfort promised by the collection’s title.

The prose poems, lineated lyric poems, travel poems and love poems all find a rhythm and a shape of their own, and are characterised by lightly-worn profundity and deep thought. But they also contain wry humour — ‘we are Facebook friends forever / immortal, and enshrined’ (‘Future Senses’) — and commentary about social politics (colonial legacies, racism and football, for example, being showcased in ‘Invisible Spears’). In this collection a new voice tells old stories in a fresh way, blending narrative traction and lyric energy, capturing the mind and the mood.