Kei Miller wins Forward Prize Best Collection

Kei Miller wins Forward Prize Best Collection

Kei Miller has won The Forward Prize for Best Collection for The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion (Carcanet).

Miller was awarded the £10,000 prize at a ceremony this evening (Tuesday, 30th September) at the Southbank Centre, London, with poets reading from the shortlisted collections together with actors Samuel West, Juliet Stevenson, Simon McBurney and Zawe Ashton.

Meanwhile the Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection, worth £5,000, was won by Liz Berry for Black Country (Chatto Poetry), while The Forward Prize for Best Single Poem, worth £1,000 and for published works not yet collected in book form, was won by Stephen Santus for "In a Restaurant", an entrant for the 2013 Bridport Prize.

The judging panel, chaired by Jeremy Paxman, described Miller’s collection as a “stand out” book. It is structured as a dialogue between a map-maker striving to impose order on an unfamiliar land, and a “Rasta-man” who undercuts his project. The panel said: “Kei is doing something you don’t come across often: this is a beautifully voiced collection which struck us all with its boldness and wit. Many poets refer to multiple realities, different ways of observing the world, Kei doesn’t just refer, he articulates them.”

Berry’s collection, Black Country, is named after her place of birth. In it, she takes an often disparaged dialect and turns it into the language of poetry. Paxman said: “Liz Berry makes you look at the world differently: her book is a real appreciation of a place that’s not often appreciated. She is a fresh, exciting and distinctive new voice. Her work is that rare thing: a collection that leaves you feeling full of real optimism and hope.”

"In a Restaurant" by Stephen Santus was described by Paxman as “simple, on first sight, but it becomes more resonant with each re-reading”.

Also on the judging panel were singer-songwriter Cerys Matthews, and poets Helen Mort, Vahni Capildeo and Dannie Abse. Abse passed away on Sunday at the age of 91.

All shortlisted poets are included in the 23nd annual Forward Book of Poetry (Faber & Faber), containing the judges’ choice of the year’s best poems.