Caselberg Trust International Poetry Prize 2020 winners announced Third time lucky for Palmerston North poet

By Caselberg Trust | Posted: Sunday October 4, 2020

The winners of the 2020 Caselberg Trust International Poetry Prize have been announced. The competition is now in its tenth year, and this year had a record number of entries 426 poems from New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, UK, and Nigeria. This years competition was judged by poet Cilla McQueen from Motuphue (Bluff)

First place went to Tim Upperton from Pāmutana - Palmerston North for his poem “Sparrows”, and ‘His name doesn’t fitby Waimatemate - Waimate poet Giles Graham was placed runner up. Upperton is no stranger to the Caselberg poetry prize, with previous wins in 2012 and 2013. The winner receives $500 and a week’s stay at the Caselberg House. The second placed poet receives $250. Both poems and the judges report will be published in November in Landfall 240 – Spring 2020.

The five Highly Commended entries were “Panegyric, back home from hospital” by Jane Simpson (Ōtautahi - Christchurch), “Conversation with a sea lion” by John Looker (UK), “Letter I will never post” by Lily Holloway (Tāmaki makaurau - Auckland), “Catch and kiss” by Rowan Taigel (Ōtepoti - Dunedin), and “Each blackberry” by Brett Cross (Mangatangi, Waikato). Their poems, along with the two winning entries and the judges report, will be published on the Caselberg Trust website in late November (

In her judges report Cilla McQueen noted that the “bumper crop of 426 submissions perhaps owed something to the enforced introspective seclusion of pandemic conditions’, and also that “the standard of writing was high and indicative of the thoughtful work involved.”

Reading and rereading was like being in a huge Zoom meeting, each poet an individual voice. I was struck by the hours of concentration represented by each poem, of the many difficult decisions a poet must make about such things as meaning, form, vocabulary, euphony and flow during the process of its creation.”

Ms McQueen noted that Tim Upperton’s winning poem Sparrows “is a poem of structured simplicity as well as a remarkable piece of shape-shifting; it's of wider resonance and philosophical import than is at first apparent”

and that Giles Graham’s runner up poem 'His Name Doesn't Fit' consists of four economical stanzas of clear and sympathetic observation, tied together by an arresting final image”

Information about Tim Upperton - His second poetry collection, The Night We Ate The Baby, was an Ockham New Zealand Book Awards finalist in 2016. His poems have been published in many magazines including Agni, Poetry, Shenandoah, Sport, Landfall and Takahē, and are anthologised in The Best of Best New Zealand Poems (2011), Villanelles (2012), Essential New Zealand Poems (2014), and Obsession: Sestinas in the Twenty-First Century (2014). 

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