US-based poet Natalie D-Napoleon has returned to her home of Toowoomba from Santa Barbara to receive the 2018 Bruce Dawe National Poetry Prize at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) on Friday 10 August.

The poem titled First Blood: A Sestina is about mythologising and de-mythologising periods through the window of a girl. “I had been working on writing a poetry collection as memoir of my childhood growing up on a farm on the outskirts of Fremantle, Western Australia,” Natalie said. “I was writing these little vignettes of my childhood and I always knew I wanted to write a poem about getting my first period, but to do it in a way which wasn’t obvious, but rather mythical.”

Natalie is the author of a collection called Zemlja: Earth, Dirt, Country (unpublished) and for the past 20 years has toured and performed as a singer-songwriter. She was impelled to enter the USQ poetry competition after seeing it promoted in a local newspaper. “I saw an advertisement for the Bruce Dawe Poetry Prize, and remembered Bruce Dawe’s esteemed name from studying English Literature in high school,” she said. “I am absolutely thrilled to have won. I still can’t believe it.“I’ve been letting family and friends know and I keep waiting for it to sink in.”

The poem topped more than 1000 entries to win this year’s Bruce Dawe National Poetry Prize, established in 1999 to honour one of Australia’s most popular and influential poets. Emeritus Professor Bruce Dawe AO was also named USQ’s first Honorary Professor in recognition of his contribution to the University. The Bruce Dawe National Poetry Prize judging panel included USQ School of Artsand Communication lecturers Professor Laurie Johnson, Associate Professor Jessica Gildersleeve, Dr Sharon Bickle, Dr Daniel Hourigan, and Dr Nike Sulway.

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