Female poets strong on Forward Prize shortlists

Female poets strong on Forward Prize shortlists

Women poets have dominated the shortlists for the Forward Prizes for Poetry revealed today (13th June).

The three awards, now in their 25th year, reward the Best Collection and Best First Collection of poetry, and the Best Single Poem, in celebration of the best new poetry published in the British Isles. 

The ratio of men to women across the three five-strong shortlists is just four men to 11 women.

Meanwhile, the shortlists comprise poems in a variety of languages, from Greenlandic to Kurdish, Old English to Trinidad Creole, Sanskrit to the magpie Scots of Orkney.

The three shortlists are said to offer “an inter-generational dialogue that tackles some of the biggest issues of our times, with migration, protest and translation themes reflected throughout”.

The Forward Prize for Best Collection includes experimental Trinidad-born poet Vahni Capildeo for Measures of Expatriation (Carcanet), poems and prose-poems about the “complex alienation of the expatriate”; Ian Duhig, two times a winner of the National Poetry Competition, for The Blind Roadmaker (Picador Poetry); contemporary Kurdish poet Choman Hardi for Considering the Women (Blood Axe Books), in which both the survivors of genocide in Kurdistan and the researcher who collects their stories are scrutinised; Alice Oswald, who won the TS. Eliot Prize in 2002, for Falling Awake (Cape Poetry), a rumination on “mutability in nature”; and UEA professor Denise Riley for her “profoundly moving” examination of maternal grief, Say Something Back (Picador Poetry).

To mark the Prizes’ 25th anniversary this year, Forward Worldwide - a content marketing agency which has sponsored the prize since 1992 - is offering each poet shortlisted for the Best Collection Prize £1,000, while the value of the overall Best Collection prize has been increased to £15,000.

The £5,000 Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection shortlists Nancy Campbell for Disko Bay (Enitharmon Press); Ron Carey for DISTANCE  (Revival Press); Harry Giles for Tonguit (Freight Books); Ruby Robinson for Every Little Sound (Liverpool University Press); and Tiphanie Yanique for Wife (Peepal Tree Press).

The £1,000 Forward Prize for Best Single Poem recognizes Sasha Dugdale for ‘Joy’ (PN Review); David Harsent for ‘from Salt’ (Poetry London); Solmaz Sharif for ‘Force Visibility’ (Granta Magazine); Melissa Lee-Houghton for ‘I am very precious’ (Prac Crit); and Rachel Hadas for ‘Roosevelt Hospital Blues’ (Times Literary Supplement).

This year’s judging panel is chaired by Malika Booker, writer and spoken word artist, and includes poets George Szirtes and Liz Berry, with singer-songwriter Tracey Thorn and Don Share, editor of Poetry magazine.

Booker said: “In this 25th year of the Forward prizes, I feel we're seeing a complete resurgence and a breaking down of barriers within and around poetry. Just look at the shortlist: there are eleven women and the multiplicity of voices is testimony to the fact that the poetry published here now feels totally global.  These collections and works represent the very best of contemporary poetry.   Fresh, vibrant and full of new insights and challenging ideas, each demands attention and we’re all daunted by the prospect of choosing our winners.”

William Sieghart, the prizes’ founder, said: “Taken together, these writers’ works draw attention to the constant background music of our globalized and migratory age, when simply to listen is to encounter unfamiliar words, whether newly imported, freshly coined or re-charged with coded meanings. In offering the widest possible public the opportunity to sample these extraordinary writers – and to hear them perform – the Forward Prizes celebrate a renewal of poetry’s possibilities.” 

The Forward Prizes have been awarded over the years to prominent names in contemporary poetry, including Thom Gunn, Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, Carol Ann Duffy and Kathleen Jamie.

The awards will be presented at a special event at the Royal Festival Hall on Tuesday 20th September, featuring readings from all the shortlisted books.

The 25th annual Forward Book of Poetry, containing the judges’ choice of the year’s poems, will be launched on the same day accompanied by a special 25th anniversary compendium, 100 Prized Poems, published in partnership with Faber. 

The event takes place just before National Poetry Day – Thursday 6th October - and marks the start of a season of nationwide poetry celebrations.

The poetry community expressed mixed views earlier this month over the future of the Poetry Book Society, following the corporate charitable entity's liquidation and transfer of activities to Inpress