Photo taken in Hitler’s bathtub inspires $15,000 winning poem

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A POEM about a famous war-time photograph of a woman in Adolf Hitler’s bathtub has won the $15,000 University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s International Poetry Prize for 2015, it was announced at the university last night.

The Picture, Picture Time Life/Getty
The Picture, Picture Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

US poet Elisabeth Murawski, who could not be in Canberra for the announcement, said she was “honoured and delighted” to have won for her poem “Iconic Photo: Lee Miller in Munich, April, 1945”.

In the poem, Murawski describes a black and white image of former model turned war photographer Lee Miller as she bathes in Hitler’s bathtub, supposedly taken the same day he committed suicide on April 30, 1945 by Miller’s partner David E. Scherman, with the couple living in his house while they documented the horrors of the Dachau concentration camp. Originally from Chicago but now based in Alexandria, Virginia, Murawski commented, ‘said. “I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to bathe in Hitler’s tub! Too creepy. Bad vibes.”

The Poetry Prize is, unusually for a literature award based in Canberra, an International prize, judged from 1,206 poems submitted by 724 poets worldwide. This year, 65 per cent of the poets who entered were based in Australia, with others entering from as far as Ghana, Nigeria, Poland, Greece, England and various countries all around the world. Writers were asked to submit a previously unpublished poem, in English – translations were not eligible – and up to 50 lines in length.

The $5000 runner-up entry “Waiting on Imran Khan” recounts Byron Bay’s Lisa Brockwell’s rather unpleasant experience of waitressing for Pakistani former cricketer Imran Khan, when she was 18 and working at Pizza Hut in Sydney.

“I have a particular interest in writing about what it is to be a woman in Australia now,” she said of her work. “Before women were published as widely as they are today, I think the experience put forward in poetry was seen as universal, but it was actually a man’s experience.”

The University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s International Poetry Prize, now in its second year, is facilitated by the University’s International Poetry Studies Institute.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Stephen Parker said that the competition was designed to celebrate the significance of poetry as an art form worldwide and thanked all the writers who entered their work.

“The University of Canberra is committed to creativity and imagination and this competition is a fantastic way of celebrating the art of poetry, which is a creative pursuit we research and teach at the University as it remains of high importance to world literatures,” Professor Parker said.

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