2018 Dorothy Hewett Award sneak peek: Julie Watts

This is the last instalment in our Dorothy Hewett Award sneak peek series before the announcement on Saturday at Perth Writers Week - make sure you join us to celebrate! All the info you need is here


Julie WattsJulie Watts is a Western Australian writer and Counsellor/Play Therapist and lives by the coast with her family. She has been published in various journals and anthologies including: Westerly, Cordite, Australian Poetry Anthology, Australian Love Poems 2013 and the Anthology of Contemporary Australian Feminist Poetry. She was shortlisted in the Newcastle Poetry Prize 2016, and won the 2016 Hunters Grieve Project. She was shortlisted for the Montreal International Poetry Prize 2017, won The Blake Poetry Prize 2017 and is shortlisted in The Dorothy Hewett Award 2018. Her first poetry collection, Honey and Hemlock, was published in 2013 by Sunline Press.

Image credit: Andrew Burns. 



Julie Watts' manuscript, 'Legacy', holds a delicate strength both in form and subject. These are poems that reflect, with grace, honesty and a sometimes unnerving directness, on the complex interconnections of contemporary life.









The story of Julian who will never know we loved him


there's a drunk on the train spouting Kant


Immanuel Kant

that's the dude who changed my life.


he lurches up the aisle         woolies bag swinging

off his elbow         slips sideways through space


lands on shrinking laps        apologies        sways

on         Kant changed everything.


the man sitting next to me tries to become

invisible        plugs in his ear phones        climbs


into his computer        but the drunk spies him

and like fate        see-saws towards him


stands by his seat          holding the rail      his

weaving hips       unknotting the tight Sydney night.


ever wonder where your ideas come from?

'not really.'


he is thrown –      sinks

into the seat opposite      chuckles


takes a swig from his goon cask

and it sways like a pendulum at his elbow.


but where do you get your meaning?

'from my wife and children.'


again he is thrown –         and flashes a grin

like the sun coming out          its spark


lighting the dark with all its vanished

promise. he leans forward         whispers


that's a bit old fashioned, man.

'yeah, I know, but that's ok with me'


and it's done – he thrusts his hand across

the divide – friend! I'm Julian, brother


and laughs           opens his phone

a flash on the screen


my son          Jeremiah        named after a prophet

and the curtain falls.


it begins at his forehead a crumpling

of skin          pulls his mouth into such


a contortion         we have to look away.

the man next to me        unplugs his ear


phones         puts away his computer

and offers up his attention


it's enough to make a philosopher



when the police step in at the next station

he has slipped into a narcolepsy of grief


and booze         as they take him away we

say         'take care of him'


               'he's a philosopher'

               'he's in pain'


'aren't they all,' they mumble.


the train rattles on without him

no Kant       no bursts of light


people get up from their seats

and ask questions about jail cells


his grazed cheek and chipped tooth.

he has gone –


and he'll never know we loved him

on a late Sydney train last March.



Afternoons in and out of Paradise


the loose-throated peals

of children playing, float across

fences, and into everyone's afternoon.


I remember one like this


shouts, climbing walls

crawling through keyholes

leaping into sick rooms


where he lay, dragging

his boated chest

over the barnacled air


spat into jars

raged as best he could

his wintering world


his wife calling out


turn down the volume

of our play, our high time

to scream


the afternoon scuttling itself


images of white sheets

disgusting jars

life at the other end, looming




yet enough to haunt the ignorance

of our greenest days

uncomfortable with our plucked


fruit, yet comfortable with the distance


such a distance, a forever –

breathe in and out

and it's gone –


that afternoon like this afternoon


with the high spirits of children

thrilling the autumn



I think of him, long gone


and ungrasped

by the scattering pirates, boarding

their backyard ships.




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