Lecturer wins Robert Burns poetry award

05 Feb, 2020
 
Siobhan Harvey holding a book of poetry in her office.
Creative Writing Lecturer Siobhan Harvey.

Creative Writing Lecturer Siobhan Harvey has won the Robert Burns Poetry Competition for 2020.

Harvey says she was “absolutely shocked” after also being awarded the 2019 Kathleen Grattan Prize for a Sequence of Poems in November.

“It was enough to win one competition; it was a shock to win a second one.”

Harvey says she entered the Robert Burns Poetry Competition because of the migrant theme of the competition.

Her winning poem, The Dead: A Migrant Life in Two Parts, first looks at migrants leaving their family, with the second part about migrants in the land that they’ve gone to.

“I didn’t think I’d have much hope, but the judges in their comments were focused on the quality of the words, not on whether it embraced Robert Burns’ language,” Harvey says.

The Dead: A Migrant Life in Two Parts was inspired by her own life experience in moving to New Zealand from the United Kingdom.

“I chose a partner, not necessarily the place they came from. They wanted to move back to their homeland and so I moved for them. I didn’t choose to come here, I chose the person,” Harvey says.

“Being an immigrant is not a comfortable existence, it’s not an easy existence, and the reality is that it’s a decision made – and then you live with that decision in the life that unfolds in the place that you migrate to.

“There’s nothing that can ever prepare you for the things that have to be given up and the things that you lose in terms of what is achieved by settling in a new place.”

The annual Robert Burns Poetry Competition marks the famous Scottish bard's birthday on January 25, 1759.

It is a collaboration between the Dunedin City of Literature, Dunedin Public Libraries and The Dunedin Burns Club, with support of the Centre for Irish and Scottish Studies and the Otago Daily Times.

The entries are judged by the University of Otago’s Robert Burns Fellowship.

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