By Bella LiPoetryVagabond Press


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.

Portrait of Bella Li

Bella Li

Bella Li is the author of Maps, Cargo (Vagabond Press, 2013) and Argosy (Vagabond Press, 2017). Her work has been published in a range of journals and anthologies including Meanjin, the Kenyon Review, Archives of American Art Journal and Best Australian Poems, and will be exhibited at the Triennial of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, in 2017–2018.

Judges’ report

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 juxtapostionspoetic gaps that spur haunting, dreamlike sequences. This is a collection of journeys and intertextual dialoguesbetween poems and works, and with culture and history.


The Novelist Elena Ferrante

I had in my mind cries, crude family acts of violence I had witnessed as a child, domestic objects.

For instance, in Ischia. Those dark corners where the sound does not. But I remembered them that way and only that way do they appear. In each retelling, in the manner of chiaroscuro: stones shearing off the roofs of houses at sundown. Hunting the particularity, the moment, seen so closely from afar. Down the lanes, always in the company of a shadow, a woman, a cleaver. Always closer than before. These slow dances from doorway to doorway – these particular doorways, these particular lanes. My sister – a girl then – clear, cleaving to the shadows, and once. Once we ran from house to house in the dark, calling names, falling and our knees grazed. Dresses stained. Those stones at sundown. Later, in the living room, crowding into corners, watching the walls shake – yellow paper peeling slowly, vertically, folding down in great, wide strips. These days and nights of blood. Clear voices, and distinct, the taste of something metallic. In the corner the broken lamp. The television (silent) in the background.

The Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards shortlist