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Lisa Gorton and Π.O. are shortlisted for the 2020 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards
On Heide, the judges said:
Π.O.’s Heide is a poetic history of art in Australia seen from the viewpoint of Melbourne and Victoria. It stretches from the time of Cook’s voyages to Aboriginal leader William Barak, whose portrait hangs in the Victorian Parliament, up to the bohemian set at Heide. Like a gigantic exhibition of portraits and scenes the book is epic in its ambitions for poetic form and for our understanding of the centrality of art in Australian life and history. In accessible, playful and always vibrant language each portrait or scene depicts individual artists, artists’ family, friends and relations, wealthy art patrons, landscapes, cultural events or Modernist controversy. This series of poetic portraits builds up a democratic and powerfully imagined life of art in society, all moving towards the richly detailed and very personal depiction of the artists and patrons at Heide: John and Sunday Reed, Sidney Nolan, Albert Tucker, and Joy Hester.
On Empirical the judges said:
Lisa Gorton’s Empirical is a collection of poems that opens up a distinctively imagined world of urban Melbourne landscape and life. In long, carefully-paced lines Gorton shows us someone thinking about the entirely unremarkable world around her: factories, train lines, building rubble, tyre tracks, milkweed. Her view is empirical, privileging the evidence of the senses, rather than some poetic idea of landscape or fine feeling. These poems are like clear panes of glass on someone seeing and thinking, partly because of the pinpoint accuracy of individual words, partly because of the unencumbered syntax. In another sense of ’empirical,’ the collection also includes documentary poems about the colonial history of Melbourne’s modern civic space, full of careful quotation, catalogues of people and language from the past, as well as geographical references. These are poems that seem free of any predictable topic or theme, open to the immediacy of a perceptive mind.