The Jaguar by Sarah Holland-Batt wins 2023 Stella Prize

27 April 2023

The Jaguar by Sarah Holland-Batt, book cover

It’s been a good couple of years for poetry at the Stella Prize. And for the University of Queensland Press (UQP). This evening Queensland born Australian author Sarah Holland-Batt was named winner of the 2023 award, with her collection of poetry, The Jaguar, published by UQP, in May 2022. Holland-Batt follows Evelyn Araluen, winner of the 2022 Stella with her collection of poetry, Dropbear, also published by UQP.

The Jaguar is Holland-Batt’s third book, and was written in the wake of her father being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and his later death in 2020:

With electrifying boldness, Sarah Holland-Batt confronts what it means to be mortal in an astonishing and deeply humane portrait of a father’s Parkinson’s Disease, and a daughter forged by grief. Opening and closing with startling elegies set in the charged moments before and after a death, and fearlessly probing the body’s animal endurance, appetites and metamorphoses, The Jaguar is marked by Holland-Batt’s lyric intensity and linguistic mastery, along with a stark new clarity of voice.

Alice Pung, chair of this year’s judging panel, describes Holland-Batt’s prose as “unexpected and unforgettable“:

In The Jaguar, Sarah Holland-Batt writes about death as tenderly as we’ve ever read about birth. She focuses on the pedestrian details of hospitals and aged care facilities, enabling us to see these institutions as distinct universes teeming with life and love. Her imagery is unexpected and unforgettable, and often blended with humour. This is a book that cuts through to the core of what it means to descend into frailty, old age, and death. It unflinchingly observes the complex emotions of caring for loved ones, contending with our own mortality and above all – continuing to live.

The Stella Prize is not the only accolade The Jaguar has garnered. It was named The Australian’s, 2022 Book of the Year, and was shortlisted for the 2023 Kenneth Slessor Poetry Prize, which is part of the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards.

Update: see Holland-Batt’s Stella Prize acceptance speech here.


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