26 February 2003

Sydney poet Judith Beveridge was presented with one of Australia’s most prestigious poetry awards at a gala ceremony on Tuesday, February 25.

Ms Beveridge won the 2003 Josephine Ulrick National Poetry Prize, one of the richest poetry awards in Australia, for her work entitled Between the Palace and the Bodhi Tree.

The University of Queensland’s School of English, Media Studies and Art History (EMSAH) administers the prize on behalf of The Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Foundation for The Arts.

Ms Beveridge received $10,000 at The Brisbane Institute event, held at Customs House, Queen St.

“I am delighted and thrilled to win such a highly-regarded poetry prize and hope to put the money towards buying some writing time,” Ms Beveridge said.

She said her winning entry was a 10-poem extract from a sequence of 50 poems.

“The poems are an imaginative depiction of Siddhattha Gotama, who later become the Buddha, as he wanders the towns and forests of north India in around 500BC, before he achieved enlightenment,” she said.

Forty-five of the poems are due to be published in Ms Beveridge’s next book Wolf Notes, due for release in October by Giramondo Publishing Company.

Born in England in 1956, Ms Beveridge migrated to Australia as a child and has since published The Domesticity of Giraffes (1987). It is a high school study text in New South Wales and won a number of awards including the Victorian and New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards in 1988.

Her second collection, Accidental Grace was published by University of Queensland Press in 1997 and was short-listed for the Arts Victoria C. J. Dennis Prize for Poetry in the same year.

Award-winning novelist and UQ lecturer Veny Armanno presented Ms Beveridge with the prize.

Adrienne Eberhard from Tasmania was awarded highly commended for her work entitled Earth, Air, Water, Fire (A Love Poem in Four Elements). She received $1000 prize money.

At the ceremony, Mr Armanno also discussed Under the Volcano, examining the locations, people and stories behind his latest novel Volcano. Last year, the book won the Queensland Premier’s Award for Best Fiction Novel and was short-listed for The Courier-Mail Book of the Year.

Established in 1997 as a tribute to former UQ student, writer, artist and photographer Josephine Ulrick, the award is open to all Australian residents and aims to encourage budding poets.

It is a condition of entry that the poem (or group of poems) does not exceed 200 lines and has not been published, performed or submitted to any other poetry competition.

Previous winners included prominent poet Anthony Lawrence, whose latest volume of work, ,Skinned by Light, was published by University of Queensland Press last year and launched at the 2002 Brisbane Poetry Festival.

Judy Johnson, who won last year’s prize for her work entitled The African Spider Cures, has since won the City of Greater Dandenong Poetry Award and the prestigious Arts Queensland Val Vallis Award for Unpublished Poetry.

Media: For further information, contact Sue Morris from UQ’s School of English, Media Studies and Art History (mobile 0418 763 833, email sue.morris@uq.edu.au), Joanne van Zeeland at UQ Communications (telephone 07 3365 2619 or email communications@uq.edu.au) or visit www.brisinst.org.au

By Judith Beveridge

Ten poems in the voice of Siddhattha Gotama as he wanders the forests

(after Hayden Carruth by way of Tu Fu)

Beyond, towards the Licchavi hills,
smoke the colour of wolves loops
along a quiet ridge. The sky is perfect

for flutes, voices keeping clear pitch,
a koel calling through dew-charged air.
I sit, settling into my breath, thoughts

calming, heightening distant plateaux
of dust, and the angle of the southward
opening plain. The first vulture circles,

swoops, rides another dusty current.
I hear distant tinklings, bells on greasy
slopes, women readying tea behind

faint glass. The last stars are gone,
the whitewashed moon; and from
the valley, calf-notes pure as breath

blown into sheoga wood. I smile -
smile again, because even this dusty,
yellow valley seems a basin awash

with Gangetic benediction. Not yet
am I a sorrowful man. Not yet. A koel
calls again from a silvery eastern sky.

(ending on a line by Ruth Stone)

All morning a gang of brown monkeys have swung
between the trees. I`ve had to dodge them pasting
the path with fruit and dung. They have thrown
tiny green dollops of tree frogs at the vexed visitor,

a red grivet, bending sound between the colloquial
and the absurd: its ripe screams sharp and twig-sore,
before it takes its injuries up into the forest canopy
where a python bloats among the steaming insects.

There, I see it cradle its own head: russet, fibrous,
leaking like a dropped coconut. It whimpers a long
calling toward the mountains where its relatives may
be hooting and waiting. Suddenly, I look there too

for any crude welcoming. Those distant hills lonely,
dangerous with their herds of ginger-humped camels.
And I wish, I too, had a home I could call to with
the quick of my mouth, the madness of my tongue.


The moon this evening is pulled into a curve,
a bow-string I wish I had the arrows for -
because there are wolves, tigers, and a wind
chanting appeasement to a short-tempered demon.
There`s a boar driven mad by ticks large as
thumbnails, and a gibbon who screams of murder
in cold-blooded Sanskrit. I look at the whittled

light of the stars, and think of the knife-points
of robbers and bandits along this mountain path.
I try to steady my heart to a rhythmic procession,
to a bullock`s slow tread, a low dumb moan
many points west of here, where Brahmins
chant, and the wind in the leaves is what honest
tribes near open rivers speak. I wish the moon

were my one superstition, that the world could
be made safer by it, by meeting fear with vowels
proofed by prayers, incense and a propitiating fire.
But I know fear is what makes the tigers come
sniffing, what makes the moon a seance of chants
around a rhinoceros horn. I watch sunlight move
across the path - ah!, so many saffron butterflies!


They say a snake feeds on the wind,
that only a snake can see a snake`s legs;
that it slides like one of the great rivers
when creeping out of its slough; that it
hears by means of its eyes; that the blind
recover their sight by inhaling vapour

rising from a snake steamed in milk.
That it can produce an antidote against
its own poison when induced to suck
venom out of a wound by a hermit,
who half-mad, prostrates himself along
the roots of an asoka tree, and pours

perfumed ghee into a hole. Vipers in
a pit writhe like eddies, and a reticulated
python surges off, as if it were the long
arc of the earth itself, slipping away
on all sides, a dark weight drawing out
the tides. How long before my own mind

becomes the votary of this slave-making
lore? It all happens so fast, the hiss
mistaken for a sudden gust, the strike
against the limbs. Then, a heaviness heading
for the heart; an old artery slipping into
a place of worship among the stones.


Nettle, jimsonweed, hemlock,
monkshood, henbane, banewort,
nightshade, hellebore, foxglove.

Pokeweed, ergot, sheep laurel,
death cup, upas, nux vomica,
belladonna, larkspur, snakeroot.

Ulcers, cankers, sores, lesions,
pustules, pox. Incisions, wounds,
cuts. Sawflies, beetles, wasps -

& of course, leeches. Then, giant
ants biting at regular intervals -
once their jaws have clamped,

and the bodies are severed off -
a balm of urine-saliva, as pincers
& heads, suture together flesh.


Above the dust, from the limb of a creaking
leafless tree, a bee-hive breathes.
I hear the wind move its hiss across,
and see black bees eject like flecks of rock.

A snake, its tongue a heart-beat strike,
muscles itself towards a higher branch.
A long robe of bees flows about me,
and I watch the moon hang, a septic thorn.

So many hours I`ve sat, and like a stylite,
kept calendar time. Now, a cobra sways,
and the bees check out along my arm.
If I stay longer, I`ll have to sit through heat`s

glacial noon, and like a lizard, learn to clutch
at nothing, wait for history, and look
at something more distant.... Scenes of such
little consequence, acquitted in stone.


Patience, they say, is an apprentice to the colour white.
And so, as the snow comes down, I wait for the moon

to build into a snowball. I listen for the breaking apart
of an avalanche, as each moment becomes the distilled,

the melting crystal. All shape utterly disassociated, as
flake by flake the mind`s transcription is this dreamless

place. I listen for the sound of snow ceaselessly, tirelessly.
And I wonder how long before the moon arrives above

the wild mountain? And yet I know the glacier may or
may not move, in its quiet sleep toward the crocuses.


Under the bodhi tree -
I vow with all beings
to sit until I become one with
all the heart-shaped leaves.

Under the mucalinda tree -
I vow with all beings
to sit until the moon, a bowl,
is almed only by the Good.

Under the goatherd`s banyan -
I vow with all beings
to sit until at the root, every
snake becomes an acolyte.

Under the rajayatana tree -
I vow with all beings
to sit until the nests of all the birds
are given gifts by the cuckoo.

Under the red-blossoming asokas -
I vow with all beings
to sit until the clouds
reissue the seeds of knowledge.

Under the thin mulberry -
I vow with all beings
to sit until the silk-worms eat
all greed driven life-cycles.



Something`s dead in that stand of trees.

Vultures circle and swoop.
Flies fresh from the herds,
hum around my head.

I watch the maggots rise, cooking up.

Ants in tiny rows keep convoying
skin, tissue.

Even the moon can`t keep itself clean:
soap soiled by a dung-collector`s hands.

The carcass is a spotted deer`s.

Only yesterday, perhaps,
it was grazing among the trees,

its hide so much the colour of the trunks,
it would seem to be hardly there.

How many years have I journeyed?

Time. So much its own colour.

Death in every stand of trees.


Ten miles out of Banaras my feet are sore.
The forest stretched for hundreds of miles
and still I have not found my implicate law.

From the North have come rumours of war.
I see smoke rise from the Rajghat plateau.
I`m still ten miles out and my feet are sore.

I know this road is hard and there`s no detour.
Though I`ve wandered over so much ground
I still have not found my implicate law.

Perhaps I should return to Rajashankipur -
rickshaw it to Sakiya and the Northern Road,
but I`m ten miles out and my feet are sore.

What have I achieved that I didn`t before?
What will I find in the temples and streets -
people living the truth of the implicate law

and making the crossing to the farther shore?
I know what`s easy will always feel near.
Ten miles out of Banaras my feet are sore -
and still I have not found my implicate law.