We are so excited to announce that the winner of the 2021 Anne Elder Award is Audrey Molloy with The Important Things (Gallery Press 2021). Congratulations Audrey! Thank you so much to our wonderful judges this year – Ella Jeffery, Marjon Mossammaparast, and Marcella Polain, for their incredible effort judging what was an enormous, generous, and powerful suite of entries. See below for the judge’s comments.

Congratulations also to the three Highly Commended works: Dropbear by Evelyn Araluan (UQP 2021), The Open by Lucy Van (Cordite Books 2021), and Animals With Human Voices by Damen O’Brien (RWP 2021) – along with a Commended work to James Lucas for Rare Bird (RWP 2021).

Anne Elder 2021-22 Judges’ Comments


Winner: The Important Things, Audrey Molloy

There is a rebellious, subtle wit in this collection, matched by the poet’s capacity for evocative and moving vulnerability. Molloy’s surprising, elegant poems explore intimacy, domesticity and grief, and as she navigates this complex terrain her voice remains assured, self-aware and charismatic. This mature and grounded voice, unafraid to expose the fragility and vulnerability that come with life’s experiences, is suffused with human warmth that connects with and engages the reader. Though a highly personal collection, we see ourselves reflected in the poems and bear testament to the adjacency of loss and grief with re-discovery of joy and pleasure.

In a strong field, this collection impresses in many ways, including its very pleasing use of language, image and analogy. In turns playful, measured and intimate, it demonstrates excellent control of cadence, meter and rhythm.


Highly commended:

Drop Bear, Evelyn Araluen

A highly ambitious and searing work of national importance, this collection unapologetically pierces the reader and forces examination of our own presence/absence within contemporary discourse, and how the reader is/is not contributing, and has/has not contributed, to the various crises that are reaching tipping point in the present moment.

The experimental and often subversive use of language and form pushes boundaries between activism and poetry.

With impressive attention to meter, rhythm and sound play, through use of recurring images and metaphors, and with poems building to strong conclusions, Araluen’s technical skill and nuanced, versatile poetics engage with Australia’s anxieties, silences, tensions and histories.


The Open, Lucy Van

Van’s use of the prose poem form is captivating; the voice that emerges across this book is in turn compelling, unsettled, insistent, or casual, warm, intimate. Rich in detail that personalises and creates a unique time- and place-bound setting, it throws the reader into open water and forces them to confront, at times, that which is unstable and unfamiliar and, at other times, the familiar remade into the strange.

The collection shows great originality and energy. At its best, it sustains a fine balance between inventiveness and accessibility, and reveals a poetic sensibility that will undoubtedly continue to animate exceptional work from this poet.


Animals With Human Voices, Damen O’Brien

A multi-layered exposition of the various ways we can enact our human capabilities, this is a book attuned to the fragilities of the natural word and of human relationships. There is a keen eye at work – great sensitivity, compassion and precision – which, through sharp images and unexpected turns, works to reframe our place among the creaturely, offer a subtle look into our interconnections with ourselves, our gods and our environments, and press us to interpret the consequences of our paradigms.




Rare Bird, James Lucas

This is a work of dexterity, musicality and invention. It handles language judiciously and is highly crafted, with clear command of form. There is an urbane, wry voice driving these poems, a clear understanding of canonical works, and the poet’s impressive control of form and technique.