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Bella Li, Argosy

WINNER of the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards 2018 (Poetry).
WINNER of the NSW Premier's Literary Awards 2018 (Poetry).
Highly commended in the Anne Elder Poetry Award 2017.
Commended in the Wesley Michel Wright Prize in Poetry.

This innovative full-length collection, drawing inspiration from the surrealist collage novels of Max Ernst, is an arresting and utterly unique assemblage of poetry, collage and photography. In two parts, the book engages with themes of travel and exploration, language and loss, identity and originality, as well as the relationship between poetry and other disciplines: the visual arts, history, literature and film. Polyglot in sensibility and content, and daring in construction, Argosy defies categorisation. Grounded firmly in Australian contemporary poetic practice, the book is also outward-looking in its approach to form and content; it constitutes a landmark in both local and international poetics.

'Bella Li’s Argosy is a stunning hybrid artefact, textually and visually. Through Argosy, Li provokes the reader on the value of the object, of the book. This is a collection whose very reality insists on the necessity of print – it dwells within the materiality of form, and is a recognition of poetry as art and art as poetry. Argosy’s exquisite writing leads the reader through collages, prose poetry and photography, the meanings of which unfold through their juxtapostions – poetic gaps that spur haunting, dreamlike sequences. This is a collection of journeys and intertextual dialogues – between poems and works, and with culture and history.' Victorian Premier's Literary Awards 2018 judges' report.

'The powerful and surprising impact of the book made Argosy a clear winner. Bella Li’s sophisticated handling of language, form, time and image offers a remarkable synthesis of European surrealism and an antipodean sensibility, via a Chinese–Australian history. This important contribution to Australian poetic imagination and traditions doubles as a Southern Hemisphere rewriting and re-imaging of world traditions.' NSW Premier's Award (Poetry) judges' report.

'Bella Li's is a cerebral, yet playful collection broadly presented in two movements. Li interrogates art, history, geography, film, philosophy, and language through the muscular form of the prose poem, juxtaposed with original photography and collage. Argosy is at once immediate and surreal, and self-reflexively leads us to question our received knowledge of the world, while engaging with and commenting on aesthetic traditions practised by experimental artists such as Joseph Cornell. As an artefact, the book is a singularly beautiful object that pushes the boundaries of what narrative, poetic meaning, and indeed, a collection of poetry might be.' Anne Elder Award 2017 judges' report

‘Li is a cartographer of a different kind. Her map-making is as aesthetic as it is topographic, plotting fragmented histories, horizons and the spectral lands of memory and dream.’ Tamryn Bennett, Mascara Literary Review

'The poems from Bella Li’s Argosy are drawn from an exquisite livre composé (inspired by the famous collage novels of the Surrealist painter Max Ernst), in which dense series of prose poems are set against rectified historical images of an absorbing strangeness. Near-hallucinatory visions are generated from Li’s beautifully-machinated encounters of character and image.' Judges comments for the The Wesley Michel Wright Prize in Poetry.

'...a new wild object, a declaration about how poetry can look and be.' Bella Li's Argosy reviewed by Elena Gomez in Jacket2.

'...lingering, painstaking, experimental and damn good in a risky and ambitious multimodal form.' Bella Li's Argosy reviewed by Alison Whittaker in Overland.
'For all that Argosy is a work that draws upon many texts, Li occupies distinctively original imaginative spaces within her writing. Familiarity with the specific novels and films to which she refers can work in concert with her writing, but it is equally possible to fall into this work without seeking each and every intertextual link. The gestures through which Li examines the worlds of her characters create a sustained voice and vision.'  Bella Li's Argosy reviewed by Kate Middleton in Cordite.

'There's a wonderful disharmony to these poems: they radiate wonder and doom at the same time.' Bella Li's Argosy reviewed by Ellen Cregan in Readings.

'Argosy is a beautiful coming together of poetry, visual art, history, and cartography, emergent from the journals of La Pérouse, and informed by collage novels of Max Ernst. The work is of such historical scope, yet always turns back onto this sense of ephemerality, of searching for something that is invisible.' Conversation between Bella Li and Mindy Gill on Argosy in Peril.

Bella Li is the author of Argosy (Vagabond Press, 2017), which won the Victorian Premier's Literary Award for Poetry and the Kenneth Slessor Prize, and was highly commended in the Anne Elder Award and commended in the Wesley Michel Wright Prize; Lost Lake (Vagabond Press, 2018), shortlisted for the Judith Wright Calanthe Award; and Theory of Colours (Vagabond Press, 2021), shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Prize and joint winner of the Australian Book Design Association award for Best Designed Independent Book. Her first work Maps, Cargo appeared as part of the Rare Object Series. Her poetry, artwork, short fiction, essays, and reviews, have been published widely, including in the Australian Book ReviewOverlandGoing Down SwingingPerilRabbitLiminalThe Kenyon Review, and the Archives of American Art Journal. Recent work can be found in Meanjin (Winter 2021), New Directions in Contemporary Australian Poetry (Palgrave, 2021), and Art Writing in Crisis (Sternberg, 2021). She holds a PhD from the University of Melbourne, and is the associate publisher at Cordite Books and the managing editor at Scribe Publications.

Bella Li, Argosy
RRP $35.00
2017. 180pp. 229mm x 152mm. PB. 57 colour images. 
ISBN 978-1-922181-96-1 (2018, 2nd printing)
Release date: February 2017. Second Printing available March 20, 2018.
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