Writer Tim Collins was announced the winner of the 2017 Bruce Dawe Poetry Prize at the University of South Queensland (USQ) Alumni Network’s Bookcase event on Friday, 21 July.

The Brisbane-based poet and playwright said Stage Whispers, the poem that won him the coveted national title, is a piece that has been forty years in the making.

“Many poems just occur. This one hung in the back of my mind taunting me for decades,” he said.

Collins is the author of seven volumes of poetry and wrote the short story collection, Until A Shrimp Learns To Whistle.

His poem competed against 975 other entries to win 2017’s Bruce Dawe National Poetry Prize, established in 1999 to honour and pay respect to one of Australia’s most popular, influential and inspirational poets.

“Winning the 2017 Bruce Dawe National Poetry Prize was an honour because of its prestige and importance in the Australian Poetry scene,” said Collins.

Emeritus Professor Bruce Dawe AO was named USQ’s first Honorary Professor in recognition of his contribution to the University.

The Bruce Dawe National Poetry Prize judging panel comprised USQ School of Arts and Communication lecturers Associate Professor Laurie Johnson, Dr Jessica Gildersleeve, Dr Nike Sulway, Dr Daniel Hourigan and Dr Sharon Bickle.

Johnson said the panel judged and looked for poems that opened with a strong and confident image or emotion, and then developed this idea through engaging soundscapes and sustained interest to a powerful, resonating close.

“Mr Collins produced a poem that has all of these hallmarks to it – the subject of the poem is never identified explicitly and yet the poet draws the reader into an experience of the subject’s life from his connection to the old theatre,” said Johnson.

“These ‘stage whispers’ that give the poem its name, tied together the stage, the dust and the moth that has taken up residence by the end.”

Collins joins fellow winners from previous years, Sarah Rice, Steve Armstrong and Jenny Pollak.

Read more about the prize here.