Australian poet Anne Elder (1918–1976)

It is with great pleasure that Australian Poetry announces the winning and commended poetry books for the 2020 Anne Elder Award.


The award is named after Australian poet, Anne Elder, 1918-1976. Sponsored by Anne’s daughter, Cathie, this prestigious, national, annual award is for a sole-authored first book of poetry of 20-minimum pages in length, published in Australia. Established in 1977, the prize has offered important recognition to poets at a critical point in their writing lives, and its alumni represent some of Australia’s best-known and highly respected poets. This is the third year Australian Poetry has run the award.

The 2020 award is for books published in Australia between 1 January 2020 and 31 December 2020. The winner is awarded $1,000.

Australian Poetry would like to thank this year’s judges: Marcella Polain, Rae White and Toby Fitch, whose comments on the joint winning titles are below. The judges are all alumni of the Award, having won or been commended for their own first collections.



Winner: Ella Jeffery for Dead Bolt (Puncher & Wattmann 2020)


“Ella Jeffery’s Dead Bolt is an exploration of domestic living that consistently, and brilliantly, executes through uniquely crafted observations and imagery. This image-work folds each poem into origami; in the reading, images unfold – and then continue to unfold – to reveal new and unexpected facets. Jeffery’s clarity and control of language and form mean poem after poem impresses, and the collection overall is almost faultless.”

Ella Jeffery is a poet, editor and academic. Her debut collection of poems, Dead Bolt, won the Puncher & Wattmann Prize for a First Book of Poems and was published by the press in 2020. In 2019 she received the Queensland Premier’s Young Publishers and Writers Award, and her poetry has appeared widely in journals and anthologies including Best Australian Poems, Meanjin, Griffith Review and Southerly. She co-edits Stilts Journal, a triannual digital poetry journal publishing poets from around Australia, and holds a PhD in creative writing from Queensland University of Technology. 



Highly Commended:


Cadaver Dog by Luke Best


“Using the verse-novel form and a strict line structure, Luke Best’s Cadaver Dog takes its reader on a woman’s compelling, terrifying, visceral experience of the trauma of flood and its resultant loss and grief – an experience many of us, thankfully, have never experienced nor even fully imagined. Within its difficult formal constraints, the building of the narrative, the way it swells as if it’s the flood itself, is particularly pleasing.”

Luke Best was born in Toowoomba, where he lives and works. His poetry has been published in literary journals including Overland, Verity La, Stilts Journal, Concrescence, Mascara Literary Review and Tincture Journal. His manuscript Percussion was Highly Commended in the 2017 Thomas Shapcott Prize. Cadaver Dog is Luke’s first book and won the 2019 Thomas Shapcott Prize.



Ask Me About the Future by Rebecca Jessen


“With formal playfulness, and with humour, in Ask Me About the Future, Rebecca Jessen successfully captures the tensions between vulnerability and resistance, between empathy and detachment, between hope and the recognition of limits. This tension propels the work (as, in the opening poem, the spacecraft Destiny propels its humans into the unknown).”

Rebecca Jessen is a timeless boi. a linen daddy. a random shy poet. a sleeping body that remembers desire. a comet trail. a body that is a bridge. a moonstruck adolescent. an incomplete list poem. a lesbian, but… Her debut poetry collection Ask Me About the Future (UQP, 2020) was recently shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Poetry and the Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry.