100 Prized Poems: Twenty-five years of the Forward Books is a distillation of the 25 annual Forward Books of Poetry published since 1992, a series highlighting the works commended each year for the prestigious Forward Prizes.
The anthology – 100 poems by 100 poets – is a sampler of the best poems of the last quarter century. Chosen by William Sieghart CBE, chairman of the Forward Arts Foundation, the roll-call of poets included is a Who’s Who of poetry excellence and features both familiar names – Carol Ann Duffy, Don Paterson, Derek Walcott - and fresh voices – Kate Tempest, Kei Miller and Emily Berry.
In 1992 George Bush and Boris Yeltsin declared the Cold War officially over. The first McDonalds opened in China. The Maastricht treaty created the European Union. And in that year a jury chaired by Stephen Spender awarded the first Forward Prizes for Poetry: Thom Gunn won the Best Collection prize for The Man with Night Sweats while Simon Armitage, a probation officer from Manchester, collected the cheque for Most Promising Young Poet, and Jackie Kay walked off with the Best Single Poem award.
Since this promising beginning, the prizes for Best Collection, Best First Collection and Best Single Poem have grown to be the most widely coveted annual awards for poetry published in Britain and Ireland. The books are now studied in schools all over the country – one anthology is even on the A Level English Literature syllabus. Individually and as a series, they give an overview of the variety and range of poetry published now.
The anthology’s publication comes on the eve of the 25th Forward Prizes for Poetry, which will be presented at a special event at the Royal Festival Hall on Tuesday 20 September, featuring readings from all the shortlisted books.