Poet Sarah Holland-Batt wins the 2023 Stella Prize.
Sarah Holland-Batt spoke at an Australian royal commission in 2019 on the poor state of aged care on behalf of her father, who had Parkinson’s and died in 2020. She later worked her experiences into a collection, The Jaguar, that has taken out the 2023 Stella Prize, awarded last night in Sydney.
Stella prize chair, Alice Pung OAM, offered an appraisal of Holland-Batt’s poetry:
In The Jaguar, Sarah Holland-Batt writes about death as tenderly as we’ve ever read about birth. She focuses on the pedestrian details of hospitals and aged care facilities, enabling us to see these institutions as distinct universes teeming with life and love. Her imagery is unexpected and unforgettable, and often blended with humour. This is a book that cuts through to the core of what it means to descend into frailty, old age, and death. It unflinchingly observes the complex emotions of caring for loved ones, contending with our own mortality and above all – continuing to live.” as rendering death “as tenderly as we’ve ever read about birth.”
Holland-Batt teaches creative writing at the University of Queensland. Her 2016 book The Hazards The Hazards won the 2016 Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Poetry. In accepting the prize, she acknowledged the role of other women in supporting her professionally and personally:
I wrote this book during an intensely challenging period, as my father was dying, and just after. It was the friendship, generosity, and camaraderie of women that not only saw me through this difficult time, but that has been the sustaining armature of my writing life. So it’s only right that I acknowledge all the women—publishers, editors, mentors, fellow writers, friends—who have supported and championed my work over the years
Stella was established as an organization in 2012 to champion women and nonbinary writers in Australia and address underrepresentation of women in the arts and as recipients of literary prizes. The Stella Prize awards AU$60,000 to an outstanding literary work from the previous year—last year another poet took the prize: Evelyn Araluen for Dropbear.
The 2023 shortlist included:
We Come With This Place by Debra Dank (Echo Publishing)
big beautiful female theory by Eloise Grills (Affirm Press)
Hydra by Adriane Howell (Transit Lounge)
‘Indelible City by Louisa Lim (Text Publishing)
Bad Art Mother by Edwina Preston (Wakefield Press)
Lots to love here! Congrats to Sarah Holland-Batt.