Sandeep Parmar's Eidolon (Shearsman) has won the inaugural £5000 Ledbury Forte Poetry Prize, the UK’s first prize dedicated to second poetry collections.
The winning collection was chosen by judges Vahni Capdeilo and Tara Bergin and announced on the first day of the 21st Ledbury Poetry Festival.
Eidolon, which is partly a modern revision of the Helen of Troy myth, meditates on the visible and invisible forces of Western civilization from classical antiquity to present-day America.
Selected from a shortlist of six titles, the judges chose Eidolon for its "comination of intimacy and sweep". They said: "The language is sharp and contemporary, but also very gentle in places, and lyrical. There are lines which seem to reach far back (to Whitman and Shakespeare and Sappho, and of course to the book's basis in the Helen of Troy myths), and there are other sections which use the stilted language of contemporary reports and news and snatches of conversation. A strange and compelling mix."
Parmar is senior lecturer in twentieth-century literature and creative writing at the University of Liverpool, the reviews editor of The Wolf magazine and author of a critical book on poet and visual artist Mina Loy, Reading Mina Loy's Autobiographies (Bloomsbury). Parmar's first poetry collection was The Marble Orchard (also Shearsman).
On winning the prize, Parmar said she was "very grateful to the judges and the festival", adding: "For me, writing a second collection was liberating - I felt able to strike new ground and it took shape much more quickly than my first book. Eidolon is a conversation with the recent and remote past as well as the authors who shaped my thinking: Hilda Doolittle, C.D. Wright, Rachida Madani, Whitman, Euripides, among others."
The Ledbury Forte Poetry Prize is a biennial prize which responds to poetry’s increasing emphasis on debuts and seeks to shine a light on poets’ "more accomplished, though often overlooked" second collections, which can be poetry’s version of ‘the difficult second album’.
The Ledbury Forte Prize was launched in 2017 to mark the 21st anniversary of the Ledbury Poetry Festival, which takes place between 30th June and 9th July this year.,