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Poetry prize an ongoing tribute to Toowoomba icon

The legacy of Australian poet Bruce Dawe will endure for years to come, living on in his great works and the literary prize that bears his name.

Submissions for the long-running University of Southern Queensland’s (USQ) Bruce Dawe National Poetry Prize are open with the competition taking on a poignant tone after the passing of sponsor and namesake Bruce Dawe AO.

English and Cultural Studies Professor Laurie Johnson said Dawe was one of the foremost Australian poets of the past one hundred years.

“Bruce provided us with a reminder of the significance of poetry in the Australian psyche: a nation whose identity is wrapped up in the work of Lawson and Patterson, Oodgeroo and Wright, Murray and Dawe himself,” Professor Johnson said.

“His legacy will live on in the prize that bears his name and in the work of every school student who finds out about Australia's past through Drifters or Homecoming."

Bruce Dawe helped shape the future of many alumni during his 20 year tenure as a USQ academic. He joined the University as a Lecturer in 1971 when it was known as the Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education (DDIAE).

Professor Johnson said the Bruce Dawe National Poetry Prize had seen great variety in its 20 year history, but he wouldn’t be surprised if current world events influenced 2020 entries.

“Percy Bysshe Shelley, the great poet himself, once said that poets were the unacknowledged legislators of the world,” Professor Johnson said.

“They tap into the current climate of feeling, providing an opportunity for people to work through their own thoughts on the subject.”

Professor Johnson will head the judging panel of the prize, with more than a thousand entries expected.

“We get entrants from all walks of life from around the country, each with their own specific interests, concerns and specific poetic style,” he said.

“That certainly comes through in the range of entries that we see reach the top each year.”

The 2020 winner of The Bruce Dawe National Poetry Prize will receive $3000, and two highly commended entrants will be awarded $500 each. Submissions close June 5.

Painting of man sitting at table
Bruce Dawe by Sven Roehrs (Fryer Library accession number 100528)