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2021 - Winner
Throat, by Mununjali Yugambeh poet Ellen van Neerven is, to put it simply, brilliant. The follow up to their outstanding debut, Comfort Food, the book confirms their place as one of the sharpest and most compelling poets of their generation. Throat is simultaneously intimate and radical, giving us an insight into van Neerven’s life, experiences, and thoughts, while piercing the trauma at the core of this country.
Part of what makes Throat so gripping is that poets like van Neerven, with all the complexities that shape their lives and influence their art, are rarely granted the space and time to make work. It shouldn’t be a rare luxury to enjoy something that explores life as a queer Blak person, but it is. Of course, van Neerven is much more than just those elements of their identity, but hopefully Throat will help our cultural gatekeepers understand how powerful such stories can be.
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.