John Bennett takes out inaugural Tribe prize

31 October 2008

Winner of the 2008 David Tribe Poetry Award, John Bennett (left) with David Tribe
Winner of the 2008 David Tribe Poetry Award, John Bennett (left) with David Tribe

Dr John Bennett, a Project Officer in the School of Public Health, has won the inaugural David Harold Tribe Poetry Award worth $11,000.

The award was announced last night at the Faculty of Arts Post Graduate Writing Program showcase held in the Nicholson Museum.

John works part time with the Sydney Health Projects Group in the School of Public Health. He is a widely published poet, a former President of the Poets Union, and former winner of the Newcastle Prize. He has a PhD in poetics and has taught eco-philosophy at the University's Centre for Continuing Education. Last year he was the Sydney Harbour Artist of the Year and had an installation at the Macleay Museum.

He won for his poem Kitchen Music.

Ms Judith Beveridge, a creative writing lecturer in the Department of English and one of the judges, said the poem stood out "not only for its ambitious intent, but also because of the strength and power of the language and its evocative magic".

She called Kitchen Music a fine achievement, and added: "The poem is impressive for the way it uses music, in this case the sound of a didgeridoo. We very much enjoyed the way the tone and the lyricism surface throughout the images and the references...these elements have been organically integrated into the work. It is a tribute to the poet's language skills and the richness of his imagination."

Sydney student Vesna Leto, currently doing her Master of Letters in Creative Writing with the Department of English, was also short listed.

Another judge, Robert Dixon, Professor of Australian Literature, spoke at the awards. He paid tribute to David Tribe. "We were delighted when David approached us earlier this year with a plan to establish a major new prize to encourage creative writing," he said.

"David is an extraordinary person in many ways who has lived a diverse and creative life. He is the author of a dozen or so books on an astonishing range of subjects. He is also himself an accomplished poet and this year he won an important poetry award, but not I hasten to add, the David Tribe!

"In 2005 he approached Sydney University with a bequest to establish the David Harold Tribe Awards, which is a suite of awards to encourage excellence in field of literature, philosophy, sculpture and music. What motivated him was a concern to foster excellence in the creative arts in a society otherwise devoted to sport."

David Harold Tribe was a special guest at the announcement. He is a leading author, secularist and humanist. He has returned to Sydney after many years in Britain. There, he was chair of Humanist Group Action (1961-1964), President of the National Secular Society (1963-1971), and editor of The Freethinker (1966-1967). He was also an executive committee member of the National Council for Civil Liberties (1961-1972).

In 2005, he established a $300,000 foundation for the University of Sydney's Tribe Awards for short fiction, poetry, philosophy, sculpture, and symphony.

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