MTeach student takes to Sydney Writers' Festival stage

20 May 2013

Her first collection of poetry was only published in February 2012, but Master of Teaching (Primary) student Elizabeth Allen has already achieved critical acclaim by winning the prestigious Anne Elder Award for her book, Body Language (Vagabond Press).

The Anne Elder Award is an annual prize for the best first book of poetry published in Australia, named after Australian poet Anne Elder.

Allen will showcase excerpts from the book at her debut Sydney Writers' Festival appearance on Saturday 25 May for the event 'Marathon Poetry Reading', alongside fellow University of Sydney alumni Michael Brennan and celebrated writer Luke Davies.

"A number of poets whom I really admire and respect have won the award in the past so I feel really humbled to be joining their company," Allen says of the accolade. "Winning the award also gave me a real confidence boost, reaffirming that poetry is something I wish to continue pursuing in the future."

This isn't the first time Allen's writing has been formally recognised. Allen, who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) from the University of Sydney, received the Dame Leonie Kramer Prize for her honours thesis on poetry. Her poetry has also previously been published in the work Forgetful Hands (Vagabond 2005), as well as literary journals including HEAT, Hermes, Hobo and Southerly.

Allen lightheartedly admits she is "not very good" at writing prose, realising that poetry was her true calling after several failed attempts at narrative story writing.

"I have always just naturally gravitated towards writing poetry," she says. "I have tried to write some short stories and they were terrible - I am just no good at writing plot and character. I like the succinct and highly compressed nature of poetry; the fact you have to express so much with so few words. You really have to make every word count."

Rather than setting out with a firm objective, Allen believes she approaches her writing as an attempt to make sense of the world.

"For me poetry is just a constant process of experimentation and exploration. Writing is a way of using language to process and reflect on what I think, feel and experience. I feel like I am trying to convey or express something that is just out of reach when I write a poem and I never quite get there. Every poem is just an attempt."

Along with the friendships she has made and the "inspiring lecturers and tutors", Allen says she has most enjoyed the welcoming nature of her course.

"There has been a really sharing and collegial atmosphere in the Faculty and I think this has made my degree rich and enjoyable," she says.

"Of course I have loved the English subjects in my degree but it has also been really enjoyable to reengage with all of the other Key Learning Areas that make up Primary teaching, for example Maths, Science and Creative Arts."

Allen plans to one day share her passion for reflection and creativity, as well as poetry, with her future pupils.

"By the time I complete my studies I hope to be ready to walk into a classroom and teach! Hopefully in a way that my students find engaging and that promotes deep learning and understanding."

Body Language is available for purchase from Vagabond Press.


What: Marathon Poetry Reading, a Sydney Writers' Festival event

When: Saturday 25 May, 4 5pm

Where: Bangarra Mezzanine, Pier 4/5, Hickson Road, Walsh Bay

Cost: Free, no bookings

Contact: Emily Jones

Phone: 02 9114 1961; 0405 208 616

Email: 0121040000451020340f2b343c3b071e2d091f280a4569093d