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Byron Shire
May 15, 2021

Local poet’s raw honesty rewarded

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A local poet’s deeply personal collection of poems about his diagnosis with and treatment for HIV has been Highly Recommended at the Australian Centre Literary Awards.

Lismore poet Peter Mitchell received a Highly Recommended award at the 2019 Australian Literary Awards/

Lismore poet Peter Mitchell’s collection Conspiracy of Skin received the honour after he entered  the prestigious Wesley Michel Wright Prize at the awards.

Described by the judges as an ‘intense lyric confessional sequence’, Conspiracy of Skin charts the course of Mitchell’s diagnosis and treatment for HIV.

‘The poems are at once detailed, vernacular, and baroque, translating ‘the pandemonium of cells’ into an affecting story of suffering and survival,’ the judges said.

Mitchell said the poems were years in the writing.

‘The poem, Bandit Country, came together as if sowing a patchwork quilt,’ he said.

‘Various words, lines, images and ideas came from other poems, my imaginative projections and other reading.

‘All these were stitched together as a summation of the effects of illness.’

He described his motivation for writing poetry as exploring ‘the deep thickets of the self, the shadows in our lives’.

‘From these thickets and shadows, the poems crafted makes sense of one’s self and one’s place in our social worlds,’ he said.

‘I write poetry to foment revolutions; to make the invisible in our lives, visible; to put the ghostly presences in our lives into words.’

Recipients for the Kate Challis Raka Award (best film or television script by an Indigenous writer), the Peter Blazey Fellowship (biography, autobiography or life-writing) and the Vincent Buckley Poetry Prize (award for an Irish poet to travel to Melbourne in 2020) were also awarded on the night.

Signed copies of Conspiracy of Skin are available from Mitchell via his website www.peter-mitchell.com.au or via Facebook.

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  1. Congrtatulations to Peter, but I think the real ‘conspiracy of the skin’ in the Northern Rivers is the lack of anything other than White faces in this area. Why is it there are virtually no Aborigines, no Indians and no Africans? It’s because they get forced out by the ‘Locals’ who want a sanitised life in a so called Utopia. I know because that happened to me and my Family, 5 years in the Area, and everyday we were subjected to some form of racial abuse.

  2. Tony: I’m sorry that you suffered racial abuse in “Paradise”; that is unacceptable.

    But you must be wearing some kind of filtering glasses if you see no Indigenous, Indian, or African folk here: there are hundreds, and you don’t need to look far to find them. They’re not hiding under rocks; many of them are my friends and are not invisible to those who can see beyond themselves (typified by folk who need to divert attention from the issues at hand and turn them into their own victim whine).

    As to the real subject of this news item: Congratulations, Peter! I know that you’ve been labouring on your magnum opus for years. Good on you!

  3. Tony, I would believe that Peter Mitchell’s title
    refers more to the ‘skin I’m in’ as a life choice
    & most definitely not to colour. I say this since
    I know Pete & he is aware that I am part
    Native American. I’ve many friends with many
    coloured faces & due to my background I well
    & truly understand what you are saying. Tony,
    any abuse due to ‘race’ is nasty stuff & it just
    should not be. It saddens me to learn there is
    still racial abuse. Believe me if & when I hear
    of it I deal with it one on one. Getting back to
    our poet, the man’s a fine poet & he is also
    a fine human being who deserves the award
    he’s been granted.

  4. Walk a mile in those shoes…
    Ask an immigrant, not a ‘friend’ of one, they will tell you a different story. The ‘filtering glasses’ and ‘victim whining’ suggested are insulting to those who have suffered racial abuse; the defence of those who speak with the authority of white privilege.

    Tony, don’t be silenced, find your platform, name and shame, make a change.


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