Maxine Beneba Clarke takes major poetry prize

The power of poetry to say a lot with a little has long attracted Yarraville writer Maxine Beneba Clarke.

Fifteen years after she began playing with the words craft, she has taken out the coveted prize for poetry in the 2017 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards with Carrying the World, her third published collection.

Clarke was also shortlisted in the non-fiction category for The Hate Race, her memoir about growing up in middle-class suburbia as an Australian of Afro-Caribbean descent.

She is no stranger to the awards, taking out the award for an unpublished manuscript in 2013 with a collection of short stories, Foreign Soil.

Clarke, who began as a spoken-word artist, credits her time spent crafting poems as an important part of her progression as a writer.

“Poetry requires you to be really precise about what you want to say or convey to a reader.”

Carrying the World features a series of personal reflections on Clarke’s lived experiences and encounters.

She says poetry still seems to be viewed by many as an inaccessible ‘high art’, but she considers her poems a form of story-telling with which people can readily connect.

“I’m surprised poetry hasn’t made a bit of a comeback, now that we are consuming things in increasingly short forms … things like social media,” Clarke said.

“It seems to be a logical form in terms of how little time we have.”

Carrying the World is out now through Hachette Australia.