Forward Prizes for Poetry are the most influential awards for new poetry in the UK and Ireland, honouring fresh voices alongside internationally established names. There are three prizes: The Forward Prize for Best Collection (£10,000), The Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection (£5,000) and The Forward Prize for Best Single Poem (£1,000). They are accompanied by the Forward Book of Poetry, an annual anthology which brings together the best new work published in the UK and Ireland. The Forward Prizes are joined by the Creative Critics’ competition, where 16-19 year olds write poems in response to work shortlisted for the Prizes. Poems of the Decade: An Anthology of the Forward Books has been an A level English set text since 2014.
Winner of The Forward Prize for Best Collection 2021 Luke Kennard recasts Shakespeare's 154 sonnets as a series of anarchic prose poems set in the same joyless house party. A physicist explains dark matter in the kitchen. A crying man is consoled by a Sigmund Freud action figure. An out-of-hours doctor sells phials of dark red liquid from a briefcase. Someone takes out a guitar. Wry, insolent and self-eviscerating, Notes on the Sonnets riddles the Bard with the anxieties of the modern age, bringing Kennard's affectionate critique to subjects as various as love, marriage, God, metaphysics and a sad horse.
- Browns Books Synopsis
We know that the year – and more – of the pandemic was also the year of reading. And that means poetry as well as prose. It was a time when everyone was reminded how much we need to be exposed to the power of the imagination. And the short lists for the Forward Prizes 2021 are a reminder that the poetic imagination isn’t wholly introspective, although it cuts deep. It’s bold, limitless in ambition and it touches every part of our lives – our own hopes and fears, our communities, and the wider world that so often seems bewildering and over-powering. These poets find pathways into the deepest feelings and discover vantage points that take a reader (or a listener) to another place. In their hands we look at the world differently. This is a moment for poetry; and all these poets deliver. Read them, and take off.
- James Naughtie, The chair of the 2021 Forward Prizes jury