The Forward Prizes were announced last night at the Southbank centre to a packed audience in the Queen Elizabeth Hall. This year’s five-strong judging panel – included recent PBS poets Tara Bergin, Andrew McMillan and Carol Rumens, as well as Shahida Bari and the British Library’s Jamie Andrews. They read 204 collections and 183 single poems before coming to their final decisions.
We were delighted that our recent PBS Wild Card choice Fiona Benson won the prestigious Forward Prize for Best Collection with Vertigo & Ghost, published by Cape! In this dark but deeply necessary collection Benson revisits Greek Mythology for the #Metoo era and casts Zeus as a serial rapist. The second part of the collection throws light on post-natal depression and the realities of motherhood with striking candour and lyrical honesty.
Shahidha Bari, the chair of the judges, called it “a work of unfaltering determination and self-inspection. It is an exhilarating collection that pulses with fury, fear and defiance – and enduring hope too.”
The £5000 Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection was awarded to Stephen Sexton for If All The World And Love Were Young, published by Penguin. Stephen read at our NCLA & PBS Northern Poetry Symposium last year. His debut collection merges Super Mario and pastoral elegy in a moving exploration of grief and nostalgia which charts his own mother’s illness and tragic death from cancer.
The Prize for the Best Single Poem was awarded to the Afghani poet Parwana Fayyaz for her powerful poem about honour killings, ‘Forty Names’, published in PN Review.
Bari called it “a poem that feels close to a prayer, and yet is shocking and vital... It startled us with its simple, invocatory power, and reminded us of the profound act of witness that poetry can be”.
The evening was co-hosted by recent PBS recommendation Andrew McMillan and included spectacular performances by all the shortlisted poets including our PBS selections Raymond Antrobus, Ilya Kaminsky, PBS Book Selector Vidyan Ravinthiran, Mary Jean Chan and Jay Bernard.
Don’t forget PBS Members can order copies of all the Forward Prize winning books here with 25% off or get all ten shortlisted books for only £60!