Forward Prizes for Poetry shortlists announced

Winners announced Tuesday 20 September at the Royal Festival Hall, London

Shortlists for the 25th Forward Prizes for Poetry have been announced today by chair of judges Malika Booker. Now in their 25th year, the three awards – Best Collection, Best First Collection and Best Single Poem – are Britain’s most coveted poetry prizes, celebrating the best new poetry published in the British Isles. 

The list of 15 poets has a notably strong female presence, featuring both established names and forceful new voices. Between them, the writers selected draw on a dizzying wealth of languages in their work, from Greenlandic to Kurdish, Old English to Trinidad Creole, Sanskrit to the magpie Scots of Orkney.

In this 25th year of the Forward prizes, I feel we’re seeing a complete resurgence and a breaking down of barriers within and around poetry. Just look at the shortlist: there are eleven women and the multiplicity of voices is testimony to the fact that the poetry published here now feels totally global. These collections and works represent the very best of contemporary poetry. Fresh, vibrant and full of new insights and challenging ideas, each demands attention and we’re all daunted by the prospect of choosing our winners.
— Chair of judges, Malika Booker
Taken together, these writers’ works draw attention to the constant background music of our globalized and migratory age, when simply to listen is to encounter unfamiliar words, whether newly imported, freshly coined or re-charged with coded meanings. In offering the widest possible public the opportunity to sample these extraordinary writers – and to hear them perform – the Forward Prizes celebrate a renewal of poetry’s possibilities.
— William Sieghart, the prizes’ founder

The three shortlists offer an inter-generational dialogue that tackles some of the biggest issues of our times, with migration, protest and translation themes reflected throughout.

The Forward Prize for Best Collection shortlist features five of the year’s most exciting titles: Trinidad-born Vahni Capildeo’s Measures of Expatriation - poems and prose-poems that speak to the complex alienation of the expatriate; Ian Duhig’s The Blind Roadmaker – a collection that combines a passion for social justice with relish for wordplay, poetry and music; Choman Hardi’s Considering the Women – in which both the survivors of genocide in Kurdistan and the researcher who collects their stories are scrutinized; Alice Oswald’s Falling Awake – a rumination on mutability in nature; and Denise Riley’s profoundly moving examination of maternal grief, Say Something Back. 

The Forward Prize for Best Collection (£15,000)
Vahni Capildeo – Measures of Expatriation (Carcanet)
Ian Duhig – The Blind Roadmaker (Picador Poetry)
Choman Hardi – Considering the Women (Bloodaxe Books)
Alice Oswald – Falling Awake (Cape Poetry)
Denise Riley – Say Something Back (Picador Poetry)

The Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection (£5,000)
Nancy Campbell – Disko Bay (Enitharmon Press)
Ron Carey – DISTANCE (Revival Press)
Harry Giles – Tonguit (Freight Books)
Ruby Robinson – Every Little Sound (Liverpool University Press)
Tiphanie Yanique – Wife (Peepal Tree Press)

The Forward Prize for Best Single Poem (£1,000)
Sasha Dugdale – ‘Joy’ (PN Review)
David Harsent – ‘from Salt’ (Poetry London)
Solmaz Sharif – ‘Force Visibility’ (Granta Magazine)
Melissa Lee-Houghton – ‘i am very precious’ (Prac Crit)
Rachel Hadas – ‘Roosevelt Hospital Blues’ (Times Literary Supplement)

This year’s judging panel is chaired by Malika Booker, writer and multidisciplinary artist, and includes poets George Szirtes and Liz Berry, with singer/songwriter Tracey Thorn and Don Share, editor of Poetry magazine.

The Forward Prizes, sponsored since their launch in 1992 by the content marketing agency, Forward Worldwide, have been awarded over the years to some of the best-loved names in contemporary poetry: Thom Gunn, Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, Carol Ann Duffy and Kathleen Jamie. To mark the Prizes’ 25th anniversary this year, Forward Worldwide is offering each poet shortlisted for the Best Collection Prize £1,000, while the value of the overall Best Collection prize has been increased to £15,000.

The awards will be presented at a special event at the Royal Festival Hall on Tuesday 20 September, featuring readings from all the shortlisted books. The 25th annual Forward Book of Poetry, containing the judges’ choice of the year’s poems will be launched on the same day accompanied by a special 25th anniversary compendium, 100 Prized Poems, published in partnership with Faber.  The event takes place just before National Poetry Day – Thursday 6 October - and marks the start of a season of nationwide poetry celebrations.

Tickets for the awards ceremony and readings can be found at: www.southbankcentre.co.uk/literature

For further information, visit www.forwardartsfoundation.org or join the conversation at @forwardprizes #forwardprizes.