About Melinda

“Readers of Drag Down to Unlock or Place an Emergency Call will be rewarded by a book full of unexpected and richly varied pleasures….From its range of technique and tone to its depth of ideas, imagery and emotion, this collection announces the arrival of a major new poet.”
– Judges’ citation, 2014 Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Poetry

Melinda Smith profile picture

Melinda Smith is a poet, editor, teacher, arts advocate and event curator based in Canberra. She is the author of seven poetry collections, including the 2014 Prime Minister’s Literary Award-winner Drag down to unlock or place an emergency call. She frequently collaborates with artists in other disciplines including dancers, musicians and visual artists, and is also a former poetry editor of The Canberra Times. Her latest books are Goodbye, Cruel (Pitt Street Poetry, 2017) and the chapbook Listen, bitch with artist Caren Florance (Recent Work Press, 2019). Man-handled is forthcoming from Recent Work Press in September 2020.


Australia Council Literature Peer

Member, Childers Group Arts Advocacy Organisation

Co-convener, That Poetry Thing, Smith’s Alternative

Panel member, The Australia Institute Endeavour House ‘Writers on the Level’ Residency

Co-editor with Sara Saleh of Australian Poetry Anthology 2020 (ACT focus)

Shadow Catchers Project commissioned poet (Sydney Writers Festival, AGNSW & Red Room Poetry Co.)


Poetry Editor, The Canberra Times (Jun 2015-Jun 2017)

Judge, ACT Book of the Year, Grieve Poetry Competition (Hunter Writers Centre), Val Vallis Arts Qld Poetry Prize, Michael Thwaites Poetry Award (ACT)

Vallis Arts Qld Poetry Prize, Michael Thwaites Poetry Award (ACT)


Cambridge University, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Commonwealth Trust Scholarship for Ph.D. in Oriental Studies 1996 (completed 1st year only)

Australian National University: Bachelor of Laws 1995; Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice 1998 (with Merit): Bachelor of Japanese Studies (1st Class Hons; University Medal) 1993


Winner 2014 Prime Minister’s Literary Award for poetry

Shortlisted for 2014 Manning Clark House Axel Clark Memorial Poetry Prize (‘For William Eggleston)

2006 David Campbell Prize (best poem by ACT poet; ‘Given’); also shortlisted 2006 Rosemary Dobson Prize

ACT Writing and Publishing Awards (commended 2004; winner 2013; shortlisted 2014)

Highly commended, 2005 ACT Writing & Publishing Awards

Grants and residencies

ArtsACT New Projects Grant recipient 2020, 2018, 2011

Writers Victoria Neilma Sidney Literary Travel Grant (for Japan poetry tour, 2018)

Bundanon Trust Artist in Residence, 2 weeks, May 2016 (Members Only; Goodbye, Cruel)

Individual Poems

in Axon, Antipodes, Australian Book Review, Australian Love Poems (Inkerman & Blunt 2013), Backstory Journal, Best Australian Poems (multiple), Blue Dog, The Canberra Times, Contemporary Australian Poetry (Puncher & Wattman, 2016), Cordite, foam:e, Island, Meanjin, Meniscus, Not Very Quiet, Nuovi argomenti, Other Terrain Journal, Rabbit, Southerly, The Invisible Thread (Canberra Centenary Anthology 2013), Quadrant, Swings + Roundabouts (Random House, NZ, 2008), Verity La, Voyages, Westerly, Woman's Work (Pax Press 2013) + more

Select Performances and Talks

Toured Japan (five poetry readings; two student workshops; two translation workshops) - Tokyo, Nara, Kumamoto, July 2018

International guest poet at Voci Lontane, Voci Sorelle Poetry festival, Florence, Italy, Sep 2016

Invited guest for 2020 Sydney Writers’ Festival, Newcastle Writer’s Festival, National Folk Festival, Poetry on the Move, Maitland Independent Fiction Literary Festival, Melbourne Spoken Word Festival

Past performer & panellist at Sydney, Canberra & Newcastle Writers’ Festivals, Perth & Queensland Poetry Festivals, National Folk Festival, International Poetry Studies Institute ‘Poetry on the Move’ Festival, Rose Scott Women Writers’ Festival, Women’s Int’l Poetry Festival

Invited reader at Manning Clark House, Poetry at the Gods / House, Poetry at Sappho’s, Poetry at AGNSW (Brett Whiteley Studio), Sydney Poets’ Picnic, Francis Webb Memorial Readings, Poetry at Don Bank, La Mama Poetica Melbourne, Couplet, and Riverbend (both Brisbane)

Poems featured on ABC RN’s Poetica program, 9 Nov 2013 & 11 May 2013; Interviewed on ABC Radio 14 Sep 2016

Poetry Books

Man-handled (Recent Work Press, 2020)

Perfectly Bruised (bilingual Mandarin + English selected) (Flying Islands Press, 2019)

Listen, bitch (Recent Work Press, 2019) – Read a review here

Members Only (with artist Caren Florance, Recent Work Press, 2017) – Read a review here

Goodbye, Cruel (Pitt St Poetry, 2017) – Read a review here

Drag down to unlock or place an emergency call (Pitt St Poetry, 2013) –(Winner, 2014 Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Award (AU$80,000 prize. Read the judges’ comments here)

First... Then... (Ginninderra Press, 2012)

Mapless in Underland (Ginninderra Press, 2004)

Pushing thirty, wearing seventeen (Ginninderra Press, 2001)