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Poet walks away with major international prize


Monday, December 19, 2011

THE landscapes of Mark Tredinnick's poems are usually Australian - the Blue Mountains, or the Southern Highlands, where he lives. But it is Walking Underwater, a poem he wrote in Portland, Oregon, that has won the inaugural Montreal International Poetry Prize, which at $50,000 is the world's richest prize for a single poem.

There were 3200 entries from 59 countries and Britain's former poet laureate, Andrew Motion, chose the winner from a shortlist of 44 poets including seven Australians. ''This is a bold, big-thinking poem," Motion said of Walking Underwater, "in which ancient themes are re-cast and rekindled.''

Tredinnick conceived Walking Underwater (which is on the Montreal Prize website) soon after the tsunami that hit Fukushima in Japan, while walking along a tributary of the Columbia River in the US north-west. ''It is a walking meditation on dispossession and the holiness of the affection the earth, in its power and humour and maddening self-possession, seems even yet to hold for us all,'' he said.

Tredinnick, 49, has won many Australian awards for his poems and essays. He has co-founded a group of writers and artists who celebrate beauty and hope in the face of climate change, and his latest book is Australia's Wild Weather.

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