Carcanet and Bloodaxe strong on Forward Prizes shortlists

Carcanet and Bloodaxe strong on Forward Prizes shortlists

Carcanet Press has two titles competing for the top honour in the 2014 Forward Prizes, which celebrate the best of the year’s poetry.

Louise Gluck’s Faithful and Virtuous Night and Kei Miller’s The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion (both Carcanet Press) are up for the £10,000 prize for Best Collection. They are pitted against: I Knew the Bride by Hugo Williams (Faber & Faber); The Whole and Rain-Domed Universe by Colette Bryce (Picador); and John Burnside’s All One Breath (Jonathan Cape).

Meanwhile Bloodaxe Books has two titles in the shortlist for the £5,000 Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection: Moontide by Niall Campbell and Grun-tu-molani by Vidyan Ravinthiran. The other debut collections shortlisted are: Black Country by Liz Berry (Chatto & Windus); Bright Travellers by Fiona Benson (Jonathan Cape); The Invention of Fireworks by Beatrice Garland (Templar Poetry); and Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting by Kevin Powers (Sceptre).

In the £1,000 Best Single Poem category, Tim Nolan is shortlisted for Red Wing Correctional Facility (Coffee House Poetry). Denise Riley is also shortlisted for After La Rochefoucauld (UEA LDC Poetry), along with Stephen Santus’ In a Restaurant (The Bridport Prize). Completing the shortlist are Thank you for your email by Jack Underwood (The White Review) and Jeffrey Wainwright’s An Empty Street (PN Review).

The shortlists feature a wide range of narrators, including a former machine-gunner, a National Health Service doctor, a Black Country “wench”, and a Jamaican who uses Rastafari “dread-talk” to unravel the island’s colonial past.

The judging panel for the prizes is chaired by Jeremy Paxman, who is joined by the musician Cerys Matthews and three poets: Dannie Abse, Helen Mort and Vahni Capildeo. The judges read 170 collections and 254 single poems before arriving at the shortlist.

Paxman said: “What you’re looking for is to be surprised: sometimes by the choice of subject, always by the quality of perception and above all by the language. There’s a whole pile of really good poems here. I surrendered my personal preferences very early on in the judging process but there’s nothing on the shortlist that I don’t feel better for having read.”

Abse noted that many poets published for the first time this year were inspired by conflict, whether in Iraq, Sri Lanka or Ireland.

William Sieghart, who founded the Forward Prizes in 1991, says: “The writers on this shortlist bring news that stays news, in fresh and startling language. Their voices remind readers that, in an age of shortened attention spans, good poetry can communicate insights and visions with a power other art forms can only envy.”

The prizes will be awarded at Southbank Centre on Tuesday 30th September, at an event directed by Samuel West and introduced by Jeremy Paxman and Cerys Matthews. The 23rd annual Forward Book of Poetry, containing the judges’ choice of the year’s poems will be launched on the same day, with a cover by the artist Gary Hume.