“The mysteries of ‘inspiration’ are as close as many poets get to religion these days.”
So says Australian poet Geoff Page, winner of the $10,000 first prize in the ACU Poetry Competition.
When Page’s poem, Charles S. Ryan to Alice E. Sumner, was shortlisted for the prize along with 32 others, he was pleased to have made the list, but “hadn’t thought too much about winning”.
Page has an impressive body of published work behind him, including 21 collections of poetry, two novels, and five verse novels among numerous other works.
The inspiration for the winning poem came from his verse biography Plevna, which centres on the historical character of Sir Charles Ryan.
Plevna was written in the second-person, being addressed to Ryan, while Page describes his poem as being an attempt to “enter Ryan’s head directly”.
The poem is a purported letter from Ryan to his future wife, following their agreement to marry.
When asked where he garners his inspiration from, the poet replied: “My ideas for poems come from many places: dreams, conversation, driving, newspapers … ‘Inspiration’ can be a heavy word”.
“It’s certainly beyond our control. It can’t be arbitrarily summoned but has to be waited for alertly in the midst of frequent practice.”
Page doesn’t yet have plans for what he might do with the prize money, but could see himself using it for his jazz and poetry venues, as government support in these areas is scarce.
Geoff Page’s newest collection Hard Horizons is due out in a number of weeks from Pitt Street Poetry.
He also has a new verse biography of the American Jazz guitarist, Emily Remler (1957-1990) coming out next year from Puncher & Wattmann.
Read the full text of Charles S. Ryan to Alice E. Sumner here.