Ann-Marie Priest of Queensland was announced as the winner of the 2017 Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship at the Adelaide Writers Festival last night. The announcement followed the Hazel Rowley Memorial Lecture, given by Maxine Beneba Clarke, the 2014 recipient of the Fellowship for her memoir ‘The Hate Race’.
Priest will use the $15,000 Fellowship to write a biography of Australian poet Gwen Harwood (1920-1995).
“Ann-Marie Priest’s proposed biography of renowned poet, Gwen Harwood, is a complex, multi-faceted study of a significant yet neglected subject,” said Jenny Hocking, one of the judges of the Fellowship.
“Priest’s proposal deftly embraces the range of Harwood’s literary output, her use of various guises and masks and playful sense of identity, with a formal sophistication that is entirely appropriate to this intriguing subject.”
Ann-Marie Priest will use the Fellowship to spend 10 weeks in Tasmania to immerse herself in the places where the adult Harwood lived, worked and wrote.
For the first time, the Fellowship has also made a highly-commended award of $3,000 to Suzanne Spunner (Victoria) who is writing a biography of East Kimberley artist Rover Thomas. Rover Thomas was one of Australia’s most successful Indigenous artists and his works command record-breaking prices.
“Spunner’s biography is a celebration of the extraordinary life of a unique indigenous artist who forged new paths in Australian art. I am excited by the vast scope of the project, the many stories within stories, and the innovative style, which is reflective of Hazel Rowley’s daring approach to subject and form,” said judge Arnold Zable.
“I am confident that Hazel would have been excited by Ann-Marie Priest’s proposal, more so as her dear, late friend, Dorothy Porter considered Gwen Harwood as one of Australia’s best poets,” said Della Rowley, Hazel’s sister. “I see similarities with Hazel’s biography of Christina Stead in the way that neither woman thought their lives were of much interest to others and sought to turn biographers away.
Priest works half-time as a lecturer at Central Queensland University in Rockhampton. Spunner is a playwright and art historian.
Priest’s project was selected from a high quality shortlist that included projects by Terri-ann White (WA), Judith Pugh (Vic), Craig Munro (Qld), Thornton McCamish (Vic), Peter Edwards (Vic) and Suzanne Spunner (Vic).
The prize was judged by Jenny Hocking and Arnold Zable, together with Hazel’s sister Della Rowley and Hazel’s close friend, Lynn Buchanan.
Now in its sixth year, the Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship was this year increased to $15,000 from $10,000 thanks to the support of generous donors. It was established to encourage Australian authors to attain a high standard of biography writing and to commemorate the life, ideas and writing of Hazel Rowley. Having published four major books, Rowley established herself as one of the world’s leading literary biographers before dying suddenly in 2011.
About the previous Fellows
In 2016, the Fellowship was won by Matthew Lamb (Tas), who aims to publish his biography of Frank Moorhouse in 2018.
In 2015, the Fellowship was awarded to Caroline Baum, who is working on a biography of Lucie Dreyfus (1870-1945).
The 2014 Fellowship went to Maxine Beneba Clarke to re-trace her parents’, grandparents’ and ancestors’ migration journeys for her upcoming autobiography, ‘The Hate Race’, a memoir about growing up black in white middle-class Australia.
Stephany Steggall used the 2013 Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship to write a biography of Thomas Keneally. Stephany’s book ‘Interestingly Enough…’ was published by Black Inc in September 2015.
In 2012, the inaugural recipient of the Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship, Mary Hoban, writing about Julia Sorell, used the Fellowship to travel to the Balliol Library in Oxford and the Turnbull Library in Wellington to research early Tasmanian history.
About Hazel Rowley
“My books are about people who had the courage to break out of their confined world and help others to do the same” – Hazel Rowley
Before her untimely death in 2011, Hazel wrote four critically acclaimed biographies: ‘Christina Stead: A Biography’ (1993), ‘Richard Wright: The Life and Times’ (2001), ‘Tête-à-Tête: The Lives and Loves of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre’ (2005) and ‘Franklin and Eleanor: An Extraordinary Marriage’ (2010). Erudite and accessible, these studies brought fresh attention to the lives and works of significant figures both nationally and internationally.
For more information about the Fellowship, visit the Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship website.