Nothing airy about shortlisted poetry

A collection of poems inspired by observations on different cultures and political philosophies by a Monash University academic has been shortlisted for the 2012 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards.

The collection, Ashes in the Air, by Dr Ali Alizadeh from the School of English, Communications and Performance Studies, deals with matters such as injustice and political violence, history and mortality, and provocative philosophical ideas.

Dr Alizadeh said that he was honoured to be shortlisted alongside some of Australia’s greatest poets.

“I also feel relieved that my book, which is quite an unusual and disputatious work, has received mainstream recognition,” Dr Alizadeh said.

“Much of contemporary Australian poetry is rather light and jokey, so it’s very nice and reaffirming for me to be acknowledged for the sort of direct and serious work that I do.”

Dr Alizadeh said that he started writing the poems in China and continued to develop them over the course of his travels to Turkey, the Middle East, and ultimately upon his return to Australia.

“My initial impulse was perhaps to express my frustrations with a so-called communist country that struck me as a rather status-obsessed, consumerist, and extremely unequal, capitalist society,” Dr Alizadeh said.

“I then decided to move to Turkey, and my focus changed to issues surrounding my own personal history and background. A lot of what I saw in Turkey reminded me of some of the more traumatic aspects of my childhood in Iran.

“One of the best-reviewed poems in the collection, ‘The History of the Veil’, is a reflection on the black comedy of the clash between Islamic fundamentalism and Western imperialism, a discourse that’s sadly alive and well in the Middle East.

“I also became a father in Turkey and that experience made me more pensive and less angsty.”

Dr Alizadeh is also working on a novel, due to be published in 2013, and an academic monograph of contemporary Australian poetry.

The Prime Minister’s Literary Awards are the nation’s richest awards for literature. A prize of $80,000 will be awarded to the final winner in each of the award categories of fiction, non-fiction, Australian history, poetry, young adult fiction and children’s fiction.

Reproduced with thanks from the Monash News Blog.