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Andy Jackson wins Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Poetry with Human Looking

Andy Jackson has won the 2022 Prime Minister’s Literary Award for poetry for his collection, Human Looking. The announcement was made in December at a ceremony in Launceston, Tasmania.

The book, which gives a ground-breaking insight into the experience of disability from a distinguished poet lives with Marfan Syndrome, also won the ALS Gold Medal and was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards.

Read the judges’s comments below.

In Human Looking Jackson shows he has a highly distinctive poetic voice, and writes with great technical skill and variety. Starting with its ambiguous title, Jackson’s book is an extraordinary poetic exploration of his own disability – Marfan’s syndrome, which is disfiguring and distorts the shape of his face and body. His poems are blistering in their power, wonderfully subtle, objective and with no self-pity. The first poem in this book ‘Opening’ plunges straight in to the main subject, and deals with corrective surgery – the long incision, which his condition required. But Jackson does not stop with the physical incision. He confesses “the long suture ruptures/ in my head – the scar remaining open.” What happens to our bodies becomes our mind. Astonishingly he takes this yet one step further. Through his poem, Jackson tells us, you the reader “are becoming/ this unstitching, this sudden opening.” Jackson does not falsely valorise suffering – suffering is suffering – but it opens us. He is able to rise above it, feel love and empathy, and accept himself. In his poem ‘Borne away by distance’, referring to Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’, he writes of “I, this wonderful catastrophe . . . turning toward/ tremendous being.” Tremendous indeed. And beautiful.

— 2022 Prime Minister’s Literary Award judges

You can listen to Jackson talk about the book on The Garret Podcast and on the Poetry Unbound podcast.

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