Decadence by Thuy On (UWAP 2022) has been longlisted for the 2023 Stella Prize.
UWA Publishing is so happy for Thuy's incredible achievement. Her second collection of poetry, Decadence (UWAP 2022), has been longlisted for the Stella prize. In 2020 UWAP published Thuy On's first collection of poetry titled Turbulence. The Stella Prize is an annual award which is open to books written by Australian women and non-binary authors. In 2022 the winning book was Evelyn Araluen's Dropbear published by UQP in 2021.
The Australian publishing industry has really come back to life after the pandemic, and this year we were blown away by the creative risks taken by authors, poets, artists and publishers. Our longlist showcases the energy of this re-emergence. These works – assessed by us to be the most compelling and innovative – include fiction in its many genres (literary, historical, and speculative), a memoir, a biography, a graphic novel, investigative non-fiction and two books of poetry.
As judges, we paid careful attention to inventive and original use of language, the aesthetic beauty of the prose, the depth of research, its emotional punch, and how far this literature expands the parameters of our own worlds. The professional areas of expertise of my fellow judges are so diverse, and our judgments were informed and enhanced by this extended understanding of Stella’s criteria of ‘excellent, engaging and original’. Half of the longlist are published by small or independent publishers, demonstrating the importance of smaller presses in bringing out boundary-pushing work.
Our list covers universal themes of displacement, fear, inadequacy and love in specifically original ways. Our books are peopled by characters far-ranging and diverse as lapsed art dealers, ‘bad’ mothers, ageing parents, unacknowledged soldiers, big beautiful female theorists, melancholy ‘cyborgs’, gangster women, abattoir workers and investigative journalists. In these pages you will find pathos, rage, wild joyful swagger, a mourning of our own mortality but also a celebration of our finite selves. We are beyond excited to share this list with readers, and hope that you will find these works as outstanding as we did.
Alice Pung OAM
Chair, 2023 Stella Prize Judging Panel
Thuy On’s Decadence is a thrilling and wry evisceration of poetry gatekeeping on this continent. She sometimes resists the non-poet reader, and other times brings them in openly on the joke without resorting to the easy gags about poetry. Even as it endlessly needles the industry in which it’s situated, Decadence stands in as a kind of portfolio demonstration of On’s craft and cleverness as a poet – focussed, sensual, critical, charged, interdisciplinary. As a book of poems about poems, it inevitably turns in on itself in a delicious way, but despite this Decadence is rarely up itself. When the collection looks outside to apply or play out its theories, On provokes us as readers to reconsider the role of poetry in our lives.
“Funny, clever and keenly observed, Decadence is a profound musing on literature and language, that deftly skewers the would-be gatekeepers of verse. With this second collection, Thuy On has cemented herself as a vibrant, unique and captivating new voice in Australian poetry.” – MAXINE BENEBA CLARKE
“In Decadence, Thuy On indulges in her love of language, assembling a unique erotics of word and punctuation, showcasing a poetry that is pure—in being about itself—but also powerfully seductive. As the poet herself puts it, this is ‘art laid bare’, performing how language works as language but also as a window onto those dark, human mysteries of being and feeling. Indeed, if On builds such a brilliantly decadent mansion out of poetry, exploiting striking imagery and playful wit, it is ultimately to provide a kind of refuge, ‘lest the cave of night swallows you.’” – MARIA TAKOLANDER
“Thuy On's poems are always wry, epicurean and defiant, and this book underlines her unique place in Australian poetry. Literate yet disarmingly unpretentious, wildly playful yet leavened with complex feeling, Decadence is a surreptitious delight.” – ANDY JACKSON