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Forward Prize for Poetry Best First Collection

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 2021

Poor

Femi, Caleb ISBN: 9780141992150
Paperback

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What is it like to grow up in a place where the same police officer who told your primary school class they were special stops and searches you at 13 because 'you fit the description of a man' - and where it is possible to walk two and a half miles through an estate of 1,444 homes without ever touching the ground?In Poor, Caleb Femi combines poetry and original photography to explore the trials, tribulations, dreams and joys of young Black boys in twenty-first century Peckham.

He contemplates the ways in which they are informed by the built environment of concrete walls and gentrifying neighbourhoods that form their stage, writes a coded, near-mythical history of the personalities and sagas of his South London youth, and pays tribute to the rappers and artists who spoke to their lives. Above all, this is a tribute to the world that shaped a poet, and to the people forging difficult lives and finding magic within it.

- Browns Books Synopsis

SHORTLIST 2022

Shire, Warsan ISBN: 9781784743703
Laminated

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El-Kurd, Mohammed ISBN: 9781642595864
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Sy-Quia, Stephanie ISBN: 9781783787746
Paperback

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Hopkins, Holly ISBN: 9781908058942
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Regan, Padraig ISBN: 9781800172081
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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