Renowned writer wins USQ poetry prize

15 November 2012
John Watson is the winner of the 2012 Bruce Dawe Poetry Prize
Every year, the University of Southern Queensland awards the Bruce Dawe Poetry Prize to one talented writer, to encourage emerging poets throughout Australia.

This year, the winner of the Bruce Daw National Poetry Prize is John Watson of Leura in New South Wales for his poem Leaving No Wake.

Mr Watson is an accomplished author of a number of books, including A First Reader, Montale: A Biographical Anthology, Views from Mt Brogden and a Dictionary of Minor Poets and The Tale of Gawain.

He also won the Newcastle Poetry Prize in 2002 and the Blake Prize for Poetry in 2009.

Chair of the judging panel Professor Christopher Lee described the winning poem as a thought provoking reflection on memory loss and said the poem “ponders a looming social challenge with charm, wit and intelligence.”

The Bruce Dawe National Poetry Prize was established in 1999 through a generous endowment from one of Australia’s most loved and widely-read poets, Emeritus Professor Bruce Dawe.

It is awarded annually by the English Literature discipline at USQ to encourage emerging poets and stimulate an appreciation of the contribution literature makes to the nation.

Entries for the prize in 2013 will be accepted in March and close on June 30.

For more information about the Bruce Dawn Poetry Prize, go to

Leaving No Wake

by John Watson

About short-term memory they
were never wrong, the old masters, nor
the Ancients holding the floor.

But would they have been any
more incisive had they been
privy to brain scans slapped on a screen

by a technician in a white lab coat
to illustrate nodes, points of atrophy, what
not, in which memory may reside? Perhaps not.

The modern era is rich in pathologies –
the famous case of the woman suffering a blow
whose left hand then not only didn’t know

what her right hand was doing but when,
on becoming aware of it, was clearly riled.
Accordingly when the right dialled

and spoke on the telephone, the left would hang up;
or when the right selected a dress
the left would at once replace it, no less.

One might cite other cases too
casting light on the pathology of memory,
instances of unfettered happiness, say,

retained in the present (e.g. one man sailing a yacht
in a continuum of spray) when that present
rather than emptying as is its wont

into the storage vessel The Past
bypasses it, emptying straight into a sluice
to re-enter the ocean of unrecorded loss.

O for a draught of that particular vintage:
the delight of a continuous present
with no sail bellying out in a crescent
behind it, and leaving no wake.

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