The Earl of Seacliff Poetry Prize began in 2007, when the Earl, Michael O’Leary, awarded a prize to an emerging artist’s poem on the Poetrywall at that year’s Winter Readings taking place at the City Gallery. Evelyn Conlon, a young poet, won the prize.
Further awards were given to collections published by the Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop: Will Leadbeater 2008, Jill Chan 2009, Robin Fry 2010 and Barry Southam in 2011.
When ESAW went into hiatus, apart from a few publications in recent years, the prize also went into hiatus.
This year saw the reinstatement of the award at Winter Readings, with the Otago-based writer Jeanne Bernhardt being awarded the prize.
Jeanne read a mixture of new and old poems and was surprised and pleased to receive the award - kept secret - at the end of the event.
Other readers were Rob Hack (also MC), MaryJane Thomson reading from Lonely Earth (HeadworX), HeadworX editor Mark Pirie, Basim Furat (currently visiting New Zealand from Sudan), Siberian-born Polina Kouzminova, and ESAW publisher Michael O’Leary.
Poet and Poetry Archive co-founder Niel Wright attending the event was also acknowledged through Mark Pirie’s reading of his Bee Gees poem ‘Staying Alive II’.
About Jeanne Bernhardt
Jeanne Bernhardt is a former recipient of the Louis Johnson New Writers Bursary from Creative NZ in the late 1990s, and the author of 7 books, including Wood and Fast down Turk from Kilmog Press, Dunedin, and Baby is this Wonderland? and The Snow Poems/your self of lost ground from HeadworX. She was included in the ESAW mini series of poetry booklets. Painter of mountains, drawer of leaves and comix, felt maker and wood carver, likes to roam, solitude and being in nature.
Poem by Jeanne:
How is the Writer?
(words for my father)
Eleven years since you died.
I stare at things
Imagine they are broken
The centre of old rocks
Divorce is a strange concept
A little death
Sometimes I imagine you turn up at my door,
I do not immediately invite you in,
We pause there
Assess the sky, the situation
Your car still running
It is a fleeting visit
You were in the neighbourhood, so...
Your watch and glasses still working,
Ah, I say
For time and shock
All the time in the world
But no space
I have eaten my heart
Like an adult
How are your brothers and sisters? you ask
How is the writer this morning?
Calling out through the years
Shadows of a gone tree
Try to be happy.