Poet Antigone Kefala has won the Patrick White Award for her 50 years of contribution to Australian literature.

Kefala, born in the Greek diaspora settlement Brăila, Romania, has been a prolific writer of poetry and prose for over half a century.

“To a writer who has been highly creative over a long period but has not necessarily received adequate recognition,” Mr White, Nobel Prize winner and founder of the namesake award said in the announcement.

Her family became refugees, fleeing to Greece then to New Zealand, after World War II, when Romania was occupied by the Soviets. She arrived in Australia on her own in December 1959. One of her first works is her personal account of sailing into Sydney.

Her poetry and short stories comprise of takes on the migrant’s journey and connection to a new land while preserving ties with the old, her heritage.

Her style of writing is quite minimal, focusing on the pauses between words.

Kefala has written in Romanian, French, Greek and English -in that order- but with equal ability.

‘I feel you have to live in a language to be able to write in it and […] I couldn’t write in Romanian or Greek or French because they were languages that I had somehow passed through. English was the language I was actually living in – imperfectly,” Kefala said.

My approach to English is not quite an English approach. The kind of imagery that I use, the kind of vocabulary that I use, the whole texture of my language is not an English texture.”

Also read: Antigone’s journey