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SANLAM LITERARY AWARD (article first published : 2003-07-27)

Three poets were announced as the winners of the 2003 Sanlam Literary Award during last month’s National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.

A collection titled Leaving Johannesburg by Gordon Stuart was adjudged the best of 238 submissions in the category reserved for poets who have not had an anthology published hitherto. The open category drew 68 entries and saw Capetonians Finuala Dowling and P.R. Anderson sharing the top honour. They have both published collections of poetry previously.

Gordon Stuart is an associate creative director for the advertising firm Global Mouse Productions. He has been writing poetry since his school days, publishing single poems in literary magazines over the years. The 37 poems that comprise his winning entry have masterfully orchestrated thematic coherence.

“Together they tell a story,” says Stuart, “of life in Johannesburg during the last 40 years. They talk about changing public life and about the bonds that tie you to your birthplace.” The title, Leaving Johannesburg resonates with the ideas of change, separation and loss that are part of history. Finuala Dowling has lectured at the Universities of Cape Town and South Africa and she now works full-time as an educational materials developer, writing study guides and literacy readers.

Her PhD thesis, Fay Weldon’s Fiction, was appeared under the Associated University Presses’ imprint in 1998. She has published short stories, plays and poetry that is known for its intimate voice that speaks directly to the reader. “English poetry depends so much on irony,” she says of the wry humour that infuses the acute and witty social observation in her winning collection, Doo-Wah Girl of the Universe.

Dowling shares the prize in the open category with P.R. Anderson who runs the foundation course in the University of Cape Town’s Department of English. His research is focused on the Eastern Cape – a thesis the spatial history of the Eastern Cape Frontier earned him an MLit from Balliol College, Oxford.

His winning collection, Foundlings’ Island, is informed by grief for the rapid destruction of the natural world. Of his memorable evocations of the awesome natural beauty of the West Coast, he says, “I am acutely conscious of the enormous volume of virgin planet earth I have seen in my relatively short life, and I dread the loss of it.” Both Anderson and Dowling have had earlier collections published by Carapace.




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