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’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.