New Zealand Post Book Awards 2011

Muppet that I am, I forgot that the 2011 New Zealand Post Book Awards shortlists – including the winners of the Best First Books – were announced today.

Thhis year’s NZSA Jessie Mackay Best First Book Award for Poetry has gone to … Lynn Jenner’s Dear Sweet Harry (Auckland University Press). I have to admit I’ve not even heard of it before, so I will be very interested to read it. I had my money on Sarah Broom’s Tigers at Awhitu (also AUP), which just blew me away when I read it. (I’m even reviewing it for the NZPS). It will be interesting to compare the two. Anyone out there read either, and like to comment?

Shortlisted for Best Book of Poetry are Kate Camp’s The Mirror of Simple Annihilated Souls (VUP), Cilla McQueen’s The Radio Room (OUP), and in what promises to be a controversial choice, the anthology Mauri Ola: Contemporary Polynesian Poems in English, (AUP, edited by Albert Wendt, Reina Whaitiri and Robert Sullivan). I have to say I’m really uncomfortable with an anthology being in this category. It certainly used to be the case that you couldn’t have more than two (or possibly three) co-authors to qualify for Best Book. Presumably that’s no longer the case. (Or do we have yet another awards-skullduggery-stoush-in-the-making?) I had a look through Kate Camp’s collection shortly after it came out (disliked it, but didn’t read it in enough detail to say anything more than that), but haven’t seen the others.

It will – as always – be interesting to see how things unfold.†

†Or (possibly) unravel. Ahem.

5 Replies to “New Zealand Post Book Awards 2011”

  1. I was very disappointed when they made the change to the way the Best First Book was awarded – so that now there is no short list. I think it would be much more generous to announce a shortlist, and give some publicity to a couple more new poets.
    I really enjoyed Tigers at Awhitu but like you haven’t read Lynn Jenner’s book – or any of those shortlisted for the main award for that matter. They always seem to skip over many excellent books when choosing the shortlists.

  2. I’m embarrased to say that I have read very few of these books, though I will try to rectify that. I have read Dear Sweet Harry, and totally love it. It’s probably not up everyone’s alley, it is an unusual collection with an original voice, but it was really up my alley. It is strange to have an anthology in the poetry category, but with the shrunken awards, there is nowhere else to put it. I really think there should be more categories. I too lament the loss of the best first book shortlist.

    1. There sort-of is a place for anthologies – it’s the “General Non-fiction” category, which is where 99 Ways into New Zealand Poetry has ended up.
      I’m trying to pin down why I’m so uncomfortable with it … I think it’s because you’re judging something that was the product of people other than the authors. The editors did the selecting, and (presumably) the ordering. So if it wins, who gets to call themselves “Winner of the 2011 Best Poetry Award”? The editors? (Albert Wendt, Reina Whaitiri and Robert Sullivan.) The “over 70 writers from Aotearoa, Hawai’i, Tonga, Samoa, the Cook Islands, Niue, Tahiti and Rotuma, and from Polynesian poets scattered around the world”? (And how does it work as “New Zealand Poetry” with such a broad range of nationalities? Seriously?)

  3. Hi Joanna, I have read Lynn Jenner’s book and loved it. I don’t do reviews (but am in debt and awe and totally admire those like yourselves who do!) so that’s all I’ll say about it … haven’t read any of the other books to ‘comment’ on them. 🙂

    1. Hi Kay,
      it certainly sounds intriguing, and with both you and Helen vouching for it, I think I might have to see about laying my hands on a copy.
      Times like this I really really really miss the library … 😦

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