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Cold Enough for Snow and Harvest Lingo shortlisted for Prime Minister’s Literary Awards

Jessica Au’s novel Cold Enough for Snow and Lionel Fogarty’s poetry collection Harvest Lingo have both been shortlisted for the 2023 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards. Each book is already the recipient of major Australian prizes in literature.

Fiction category: Judges’ comments, Cold Enough for Snow:

Cold Enough For Snow relates a short holiday spent together in Japan by a mother and daughter. They live in different countries and the daughter has made a meticulous itinerary, revealing Japan through its natural beauty and through the cultural galleries, houses, rooms, fabrics, places.

Japan itself, with an elaborate and exquisite surface and an elusive interior, is an intricate and sustained metaphor for the relationship between the mother and daughter. As they move through this unfamiliar, cultivated world their own internal lives unfurl. Surfaces are the touchstones in life as well as the place to begin.

The novel is a crystalline technical feat: a series of small portraits and wider scenes, with stillness achieved by capturing arrested motion. The novel is an enquiry into the human heart and how lives are led. Here is the daily embedded in the eternal: here we are in lives past, but also entirely present. Au, by some personal alchemy, uses image the way poets use compression of language. The same poetic is applied to her choice of words. The clarity of language suggests contemporary Korean novels and has an unusual gravity.

Au’s writing has a quietness, a sophistication of expression emerging from a hum of silence and thought. It signals a new direction in Australian literature, intricately structured and with a flow and reach that, like all remarkable writing, is without boundaries.

Poetry category: Judges’ comments, Harvest Lingo

In this powerful new collection, Lionel Fogarty demonstrates that his many decades of writing and publishing poetry have not diminished his political bite or poetic power. Across themes of love and Country, domestic and international politics, the personal and interpersonal, Fogarty does not shy away from interrogating all facets of life as observed and experienced by an Indigenous Elder and a life-long activist.

Often, with the sense of an outsider or ‘intruder’, Fogarty has created a collection that is dense and multilayered, veering into abstraction that intensely evokes the absurd realities that Indigenous people are asked to face living in colonial Australia.

Fogarty writes with a radical inversion of the English language that turns the coloniser’s tongue in upon itself to create poetry that challenges the reader in pursuit of political liberation. His work is singular and uncompromising, it is often difficult, but it has a lyrical form and a syntactical uniqueness that flows with rhythm and purpose. Harvest Lingo is a book of intense commitment and power.

The winners will be announced on Thursday 16 November at the National Library of Australia in Canberra.