Budding poet to explore identity and society through $20,000 Louis Johnson New Writer's Bursary

28 Aug 2019

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NEWS

Oscar Upperton Louis Johnson New Writer's Bursary recipient
Oscar Upperton Louis Johnson New Writer's Bursary recipient

“My first book took over 10 years to write, partly because I lacked time to devote to writing, and partly because I had trouble taking myself seriously as a writer,’ says poet Oscar Upperton, who has been awarded the 2019 Creative New Zealand Louis Johnson New Writer's Bursary.

The annual Louis Johnson New Writer's Bursary provides a stipend that enables a published writer or playwright at an early stage of their career to create a new work.

Oscar intends to use the $20,000 stipend to develop a poetry collection exploring identity in modern New Zealand.

“How confidence-boosting it is to be told that the subject matter I write about: trans experiences, queer experiences, alienation, New Zealand childhoods and science fiction, has value. And that the way I write about it: rhyme, puns, footnotes, definitions, shapes and excel spreadsheets, is interesting to people,” said Oscar.

Creative New Zealand’s Chief Executive Stephen Wainwright said, “Creatives often juggle jobs and compete with other time commitments to sustain their passions – this was re-emphasised for us in our recent research on creative professionals. This challenge is compounded when you’re an emerging creative, so it’s really rewarding for us to be able to support new writers in this way,” he said.

“Oscar’s work is distinctive and beautiful, and is already receiving high praise. We look forward with interest to reading his new collection.”

Oscar Upperton writes poetry and prose. His first as yet untitled book, a collection of poems, will be published in 2020 by Victoria University Press. He has been published in Sport, Metro and The Spinoff's Friday Poem series. He also featured in the Best New Zealand Poems 2016

The Louis Johnson New Writer’s Bursary is funded by the interest on a gift of $50,000, made in 1989 from the Louis Johnson Estate and by Creative New Zealand. Previous recipients include:

  • Megan Dunn, $24,000 towards a narrative non-fiction book about the rise of professional mermaids (2018)
  • Morgan Godfery, $20,000 to support researching and writing a history of dissent in New Zealand (2017)
  • John Dennison, $16,000 towards writing a new poetry manuscript (2016) 
  • Anna Smaill, $24,000 towards writing a second novel (2015)
  • Sarah Barnett, $10,500 towards completion of a second collection of poetry (2014) 
  • Kirsten McDougall, $15,000 towards writing a new novel (2013) 
  • Bianca Zander, $24,500 towards writing a novel (2012) 
  • Breton Dukes, $24,000 towards writing a collection of short stories (2011) 
  • Tracy Slaughter, $18,000 towards developing a novel from a short story (2010). 

New transgender blockbusters

Oscar Upperton

If we put on make-up the camera won’t linger
and we’ll change our clothes out of frame
or if we change our clothes in frame it will be done casually,
talking as we shrug teeshirts over our heads
or pulling on the spacesuit to try to fix the loose coupling
one last time. We won’t die, or if we die,
we’ll die surrounded by our grandchildren, handing out bequests
of stolen property and vowing vengeance on rival families.
We’ll travel in time, and save the world,
and doom the world but not in an earthquake-causing,
crime-against-nature sort of way.
We’ll have transgender friends and family members,
the frame of the film sustaining with ease the image
of transgender people talking to each other.
We’ll all be very very brave
because being a person requires great bravery,
and we won’t have to wear signs around our necks saying I am a Person.
We’ll become immune to all tropes, and win every prize.
If we find a gun under the floorboards in the first act,
we will bring world peace by the fourth act.
If we open our lockets to show the platoon a photograph of our loved one,
we’ll be guaranteed to survive until the end credits.