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2019 Landfall essay competition joint winners profound and persuasive

Tuesday 1 October 2019 11:34am

Wellington writer Tobias Buck and London based New Zealand writer Nina Mingya Powles are the joint winners of the 2019 Landfall Essay Prize.

Mr Buck’s winning entry, ‘Exit. Stage Left.’, deals with issues of prejudice and bias from the perspective of a man who ‘is the colour of cotton candy or pink marshmallows’, whose hair is ‘definitely platinum’.

His essay is full of persuasive visual detail, and an ear for the unpleasant reverberations of everyday speech, says competition judge and Landfall editor Emma Neale. Ms Neale says she admires the way the essay effortlessly displays touches of history, pop culture and general knowledge in its discussion of identity.

Nina Mingya Powles’ essay, ‘Tender Gardens’, combines both profound, even urgent subject matter with an agility of style, says Ms Neale. The essay allows for pleasure and beauty, yet also tightens the screws on recognition of various humanitarian or philosophical issues such as racial prejudice, cultural identity and how to make a home in a foreign land.

In third place is Sarah Harpur’s essay ‘Dead Dads Club’. Placed fourth equal are Joan Fleming’s ‘Write First, Apologise Later’ and ‘The Art and Adventure of Subsistence’ by Jillian Sullivan.

Highly Commended essayists are Ingrid Horrocks (‘Where We Swim’); Himali McInnes (‘The Place’) and Derek Schulz (‘Kiwi Made’).

Commended essayists are Justine Jungersen-Smith (‘Half Sugar Half Sand’) and Amy Brown (‘To Hold in the Palm of the Hand’).

Tobias Buck and Nina Powles each receive $1500 and a year’s subscription to Landfall. The winning entries will be published in Landfall 238, available in November. Landfall is published by Otago University Press. Some 64 anonymous entries were received in this year’s competition, down on last year’s 91.

For more information about the Landfall Essay Prize and past winners, go to

The winners

Tobias_Buck_SmallBorn in 1978 and currently living in Hawke’s Bay, Tobias Buck studied art history and creative writing, under Gregory O’Brien, and completed post-graduate degrees in the US and in Scotland at the University of Edinburgh.
He worked in digital media and publishing in London and, alongside owner Tilly Lloyd recently helped project-manage the redesign of Unity Books in Wellington. He was the last recipient of the BNZ Katherine Mansfield Award for his story ‘Islands in the Stream’ and in 2018 was Highly Commended for his essay ‘Aquae Populus’.

Nina_Powles_smallNina Mingya Powles is a poet and writer of mixed Malaysian-Chinese heritage, born in Wellington and currently living in London. Her recent publications include Luminescent (Seraph Press, 2017) and field notes on a downpour (If A Leaf Falls, 2018). She is a co-editor of Tupuranga journal, poetry editor of The Shanghai Literary Review, and founder of Bitter Melon 苦瓜