Photo: Lisa Businovski


Poetry is an encounter with the world through the medium of language: when you write about a shell, or a piano, or a feather, or a bottle, you are translating what you see, hear, touch, smell and taste into words. To encounter something is to experience it as if for the first time, no matter how familiar it may seem: I am looking for poems that convey this sense of discovery, that move beyond the known and the ordinary to see that which is unusual and unexpected—not only in content, but also in form. Writing, too, can be an act of exploration, and I am interested most of all in poems that challenge expectations about what poetry is and can be.


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Objects can be seen, heard, touched, tasted and felt, but they are more than just physical artefacts: I am looking for poems that recognise that objects, too, carry with them memories and dreams. Where has your object been? What might it be one hundred years from now? Objects also help shape our ways of knowing and understanding in a range of different areas. I am looking for poems that engage with the wider world and with other disciplines and genres—what can your object tell us about, for instance, science, art, history, politics, music or mathematics?

In poetry, what you say and how you say it are inseparable. I am looking for poems that pay attention to the details of language, to the way words look and sound; I am looking, in particular, for poems that use these details to experiment, innovate and change our ideas about form. Is a poem a poem just because it is composed of lines? Can it look different, sound different, to what you’ve seen and heard before? Can you bend the rules of grammar and syntax, or use words in unfamiliar ways, in order to make us encounter language itself, as if for the first time?


Bella Li is the judge for Poetry Object 2018.

She is the author of Maps, Cargo (Vagabond Press, 2013), shortlisted for the 2014 Wesley Michel Wright Prize, and Argosy (Vagabond Press, 2017)—a book of poetry, collage and photography—commended in the 2017 Wesley Michel Wright Prize and shortlisted for the 2018 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards... Read more »