Michener Fellow Gavin Yuan Gao Wins Australia’s Prime Minister’s Award for Poetry

Michener Center Fellow Gavin Yuan Gao’s collection of poetry, At the Altar of Touch has won the Prime Minister’s Award for Poetry, one of Australia’s Prime Minister’s Literary Awards “celebrating outstanding literary talent in Australia and the valuable contribution Australian writing makes to the nation’s cultural and intellectual life.”

At the Altar of Touch, the judges wrote, “is an intensely lyrical, intimate and expansive collection of poems. Here, in their debut collection, Gavin Yuan Gao deploys striking imagery and layered metaphor to find a path through suffering towards connection and belonging.

The poems range from heartbreaking elegies to the poet’s mother, tenderly erotic queer love poems, unsettling accounts of bullying and endurance, and ecstatic odes to desire and the natural world. Throughout, the language is associative, yet controlled and immersive, sweeping the reader up in the sensations and meanings held in the body.”

Gavin Yuan Gao is a genderqueer poet and translator. Their debut poetry collection, At the Altar of Touch, won the 2020 Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize and was published by the University of Queensland Press in February 2022. They are currently a second-year candidate in Poetry in the Michener Center for Writers.