FINALISTS

MELBOURNE PRIZE FOR LITERATURE 2021

TT.O. (Pi O)

TT.O. (Pi O) is a legendary figure in the Australian poetry scene, born in Greece and brought up in Fitzroy, the chronicler of Melbourne and its culture and migrations, a highly disciplined anarchist who has worked as a draughtsman for forty years to support his family and his art. He is the publisher of Unusual Work by Collective Effort Press, a long-time magazine editor, a pioneer of performance poetry in Australia, and the author of many collections, including Panash, Fitzroy Poems, Big Numbers: New and Selected Poems, and the two epic works 24 Hours and Fitzroy: The Biography. His most recent book, Heide, the third in his epic series about Melbourne, is about history, painting, painters, patrons – the people who made modern art happen in Australia, and those who opposed it. Heide was published by Giramondo in 2019: it won the Judith Wright Calanthe Award in 2020, and was shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Poetry in the same year.

Christos Tsiolkas

Christos Tsiolkas is the author of seven novels, including Loaded, which was made into the feature film Head-On, The Jesus Man and Dead Europe, which won the 2006 Age Fiction Prize and the 2006 Melbourne Best Writing Award, as well as being made into a feature film. His fourth novel, the international bestseller The Slap, won Overall Best Book in the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 2009, was shortlisted for the 2009 Miles Franklin Literary Award, long listed for the 2010 Man Booker Prize and won the Australian Literary Society Gold, as well as the 2009 Australian Booksellers Association and Australian Book Industry Awards Books of the Year. Christos’s fifth novel Barracuda was shortlisted for the ALS Gold Medal and the inaugural Voss Literary Prize. The Slap and Barracuda were both adapted into celebrated television series. Christos’s acclaimed collection of short stories, Merciless Gods, was published in 2014 and his critical literary study On Patrick White came out in 2018. His sixth novel, Damascus, was published in 2019 and won the 2019 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction. He is also a playwright, essayist and screen writer. He lives in Melbourne.

Photo by John Tsiavis

Jordie Albiston

Jordie Albiston has published fourteen poetry collections and a handbook on poetic form. Two of her books have been treated for music-theatre, both enjoying seasons at the Sydney Opera House. Albiston’s poetry has been recognised by prizes including the Mary Gilmore Award, the NSW Premier’s Prize and the Patrick White Literary Award. She has worked under Fellowships at both the State Library of Victoria and the National Library (Canberra). Albiston works within formal boundaries: traditional, experimental, or self-imposed. She seeks the musical cadence while endeavouring to exact a mathematical sense of existence. She lives in Melbourne.

Maxine Beneba Clarke

Maxine Beneba Clarke is an Australian writer of Afro-Caribbean descent, and the multi-award- winning author of ten published books for children and adults, including the critically acclaimed memoir The Hate Race, the Indie and ABIA award-winning short fiction collection Foreign Soil, the poetry collection Carrying The World, which won the 2017 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Poetry, and several acclaimed children’s picture books including the Boston Globe/Horn Prize Winning The Patchwork Bike. She is the editor of Best Australian Stories 2017, and of the 2019 anthology Growing Up African in Australia. She recently adapted her memoir The Hate Race in collaboration with Melbourne’s Malthouse Theatre and Sydney’s Griffin Theatre.

THE WRITERS PRIZE 2021

Vivian Blaxell

Vivian Blaxell grew up in Wagga Wagga. She is a former street kid, teenage sex worker, and mental health nurse. She has held lectureships and professorial positions in Japanese history and political philosophy at universities in the United States, Australia, Japan, Turkey, and China. Vivian is a trans pioneer and elder. She was one of the first women to undergo medical transition within Australia, and one of the first to speak publicly about it in the language of social justice. Working with Roberta Perkins and others, Vivian co-founded the Australian Transsexual Association in 1981 and then co-founded Tiresias House, Australia’s first shelter and resource center for and by trans people, now The Gender Centre in Sydney. Vivian has written and published short stories, scholarly essays, personal essays, and reportage in a variety of publications. Most recent is ‘The Disappointments’ which appeared in Overland in February 2021, and which, along with ‘Nuclear Cats’ and other essays, is intended as part of a large autobiographical project structured as dérive of the mind.

Eloise Victoria Grills

Eloise Grills is an essayist, poet and comics artist who is currently working on her first full-length illustrated essay collection, big beautiful female theory (Affirm Press, 2022). Her work has been recognised in awards including the QPF Prize for Innovation in Spoken Word, the Lifted Brow/RMIT Experimental Nonfiction Prize, the Peter Blazey Fellowship, the Felix Meyer Scholarship and the Woollahra Digital Literary Prize. Her graphic novel, Sexy Female Murderesses, was named one of The Saturday Paper’s best books of 2019, and her poetry collection, If you’re sexy and you know it slap your hams, was shortlisted for the Mary Gilmore Award. She works as a creative writing tutor at RMIT and as a facilitating artist with Arthur Creative at Melba services. She holds a Masters in Creative Writing, Editing and Publishing from Melbourne University.

Photo by Leah Jing

David Sornig

David Sornig writes about lost places, marginal histories and invented lives. His two books are Blue Lake: finding Dudley Flats and the West Melbourne Swamp (2018), a historical, biographical and personal excursion through the former wetlands and Great Depression-era shanty town of West Melbourne and Spiel (2009), a novel about an architect in Berlin trying to escape the sins of inherited past. Blue Lake won a a Judges’ Special Prize in the 2019 Victorian Community History Awards and was adapted for ABC Radio National’s History Listen. In 2015 he received a State Library of Victoria Creative Fellowship and was a finalist in the Melbourne Prize for Literature Writer’s Prize for the essay ‘Jubilee: A hymn for Elsie Williams on Dudley Flats.’

Photo by Karen Quist

Ouyang Yu

Ouyang Yu is a contemporary Chinese-Australian poet, critic, translator, editor and literary scholar. He was born in China, and arrived in Australia in 1991 to complete a Ph.D. at La Trobe University. Since then his literary output has been prodigious and includes the award-winning novel The English Class(2010). His first poetry collection, Moon Over Melbourne and Other Poems, was published in 1995 and was followed by a dozen further collections. His more recent works include the novel Billy Song (2017) and poetry collection Flag of Permanent Defeat (2019). His work is included in multiple Australian anthologies. Ouyang was nominated one of the Top 100 Most Influential Melbournians in 2011 and as one of the Top 10 Most Influential writers of Chinese origin in the Chinese Diaspora. His book of poetry, Terminally Poetic, won the Judith Wright Calanthe Award for a Poetry Collection in the 2021 Queensland Literary Awards.

Photo by Hashem McAdam