Two collections from publisher Carcanet are in the running for the £10,000 Best Collection award in The Forward Prizes for Poetry.
Caroline Bird's The Air Year, which touches on new relationships, and David Morley's FURY, which draws on the richness of Romani speech and oral tradition, are both shortlisted for the prize.
Also shortlisted for Best Collection are Natalie Diaz's Postcolonial Love Poem (Faber & Faber), which explores the strength and vulnerability of Native American bodies and language; Vicki Feaver's I Want! I Want! (Cape Poetry), which explores the unslakeable female ambition that connects child, housewife and mature writer; and Pascale Petit's Tiger Girl (Bloodaxe Books), lyric poems which explore her grandmother’s Indian heritage through the flora and fauna of subcontinental jungles.
Meanwhile the shortlist for the £5,000 Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection is made up of Ella Frears' Shine, Darling (Offord Road Books), described as "a book of sheer abandon, refreshingly energetic and various in scope"; Will Harris' RENDANG (Granta), exploring his mixed-race heritage; Rachel Long's My Darling from the Lions (Picador), sharing fragments of relationships, romantic and familial, with "a charged melancholy"; Nina Mignya Powles' Magnolia (Nine Arches Press) about learning the Mandarin of her grandparents; and Martha Sprackland's Citadel (Pavilion Poetry), in which one of the narrators is an imprisoned 16th-century Spanish queen.
Shortlisted for the £1,000 Best Single Poem award are Fiona Benson's Mama Cockroach, I Love You (Poetry London), Malika Booker's The Little Miracles (Magma), Regi Claire's (Un)certainties (Mslexia & PBS Women's Poetry Competition), Valzhyna Mort's Nocturne for a Moving Train (The Poetry Review) and Sarah Tsiang's Dick Pics (The Moth).
Alongside the shortlists, The Forward Prizes for Poetry has announced a series of online events, "Meet the Poet". Starting on 10th June, virtual attendees will hear each shortlisted read a poem and have the chance to ask questions.
Susannah Herbert, director of the Forward Arts Foundation, the charity which runs the Forward Prizes, said: "These shortlists show poetry’s power to break through isolation and create breathing space for a kind of speaking and hearing often drowned out by the daily cacophony. During lockdown, we have seen that sharing a poem is a chance to connect: in response, we’re changing the way we celebrate poetry and inviting all to enjoy readings from the shortlisted books in our new 'Meet the Poet' online series. Circumstances may halt live poetry events, but the poetry conversation is livelier than ever."
Alexandra Harris, the chair of the prize jury, who is also a writer and critic, added: "“The period of our judging coincided almost exactly with the first two months of lockdown in the UK. None of the books were written for a pandemic, but it was noticeable how often a strong poem would seem as true to the hour and the day as the constantly updated news. Our shortlisted collections are rich in energy and surprise, intellectually agile, sensuous, made to last. There are transformative leaps of connection across centuries and continents. At a time when our lives are intensely local and global at once, these poets challenge us to think on many different scales: they ask what is large and small, move between intimate individual observation and chorus."
The winners of the prizes will be announced on Sunday 25th October and the judges’ selection of shortlisted and highly commended poems will be published by Faber & Faber on 10th September 2020 as the annual Forward Book of Poetry 2021.