The Forward Poetry Prizes – Poetry News September 22nd

Today we dedicate our news round up to a look at the winners of this year’s annual Forward Poetry Prizes.

The 26th Annual Forward Poetry Prizes

Last night at the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre some of the nation’s most coveted poetry prizes, sometimes referred to as the poetry Oscars, were awarded. The Jury Chairman, Andrew Marr, and the judging panel heard readings from the 15 poets who had been shortlisted earlier this month before making their final decisions on the winners.

Best First Collection

28-year-old Ocean Vuong, took home the

Felix Dennis Prize for the Best First Collection,

and the cash prize of £5000. The prize which has previously been won by names including Don Paterson and Simon Armitage was awarded for his book

“Night Sky With Exit Wounds”

The judges praised Vuong for this work which draws heavily on his life experiences.

Born in Vietnam, Vuong lived in a refugee camp for two years before moving to the United States, growing up he not only had to come to terms with the challenges of living in a different country but also coming to terms with the fact that he was gay, both experiences he draws on in his poetry. The first in his immediate family to learn to read and write, Vuong was brought up around poetry; his grandmother, would quote poetry to him when he was growing up.

Best Collection

The prize for best poetry collection went to Irish poet Sinead Morrissey for her poetry collection “On Balance”. The judges said her poetry was full of energy and openness that would make reader want to keep coming back to read more. The collection included a wide variety of poems about feats of engineering like the building of the Titanic, Marconi’s radio and Lillian Bland’s Aeroplane, as well as depicting some historical happenings from some rather unique vantage points.

In 2013 Morrisey became the first poet laureate of Belfast, she had previously been Professor of Creative Writing at Queen’s University in Belfast. Earlier this year she left a post in the city to move to the University of Newcastle where she took up a position as Professor of Creative Writing. This is not the first prize she has won for her poetry, in 2014 she was awarded the T.S. Eliot prize for another collection of poetry “Parallax”.

Best Single Poem

“The Plenty of Nothing”, written by Ian Patterson as an elegy to his late wife, the writer Jenny Diski, won the prize for best poem. Diski died in 2016 at the age of 68, and Patterson began writing the poem, which is dedicated in memoriam to his late wife, in the days leading up to her death and completed it shortly after she passed away.

The poem offers a powerful series of images of their lives together, concluding in the lament for a terrible death; Diski had inoperable lung cancer. The judging panel felt that it was almost too powerful a poem and were unsure whether to choose it or not as the winner in the category, in the end they decided it was just too good a poem not to win.

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