Michael Symmons Roberts has won the Forward Prize for Best Collection (£10,000) for his volume Drysalter (Cape Poetry).
Emily Berry's Dear Boy (Faber) won the Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection (£5,000), with "The Metric System" by Nick Mackinnon, published in the Warwick Review, taking the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem (£1,000).
Jeanette Winterson, chair of the Forward judges, said of Drysalter: "We need to be able to talk of matters of faith and the soul, and how the soul intersects with the heart. What Symmons Roberts does is difficult but necessary now—it addresses a fissure in the human psyche, how we deal with faith and secularism; how we find a life."
Lancashire-born Symmons Roberts was an atheist as a teenager, studying theology and philosophy at Oxford in order to "talk believers out of their faith". However the tactic backfired because the study of philosophy undermined his atheism, the poet said, by convincing him that there was no overarching objectivity to be had.
The poet said of his winning collection: "It's called Drysalter partly in response to the old high street traders called drysalters, who were dealers in gums, drugs, poisons and powders. And the title's also a nod to the psalter, those medieval day-books that contained psalms, but also jokes and cartoons and marginalia."
Symmons Roberts has published five collections of poetry, including Corpus, which won the 2004 Whitbread Poetry Award. He has also published two novels: Patrick's Alphabet (2006) and Breath (2008), as well as non-fiction book Blacklands, co-written with Paul Farley, which won the Jerwood Prize.
Photo credit: Martin Bence