It’s the 30th anniversary of the Forward Prizes for Poetry, the most influential awards for new poetry in the UK and Ireland, honouring fresh voices alongside internationally established names – and this year the glittering awards ceremony will take place right here in Manchester. Yup, even though it’s a while off yet, we’re excited and honoured, as a UNESCO City of Literature, to be holding the shindig in November – it’s usually in the wilds of London’s South Bank with, before All That, a Northern preview event up here.
“An unmissable fixture on the literary calendar,” says the Forward Prizes website – and who are we to argue now they’re taking place in our midst.
What’s more, some of “our own” poets feature on the shortlists – including Kim Moore and Helen Mort, who both teach at the Manchester Writing School up the Oxford Road from tonight’s venue, the newly renovated Contact Theatre. All of the shortlisted poets are invited to stride up the red carpet and read at the gala, and it’s a chance for everyone who wants to discover the best contemporary poetry to enjoy a live showcase. “An unmissable fixture on the literary calendar,” says the Forward Prizes website – and who are we to argue now they’re taking place in our midst.
Since the first awards were made in 1992, some of the most recognised names in poetry have been lauded, including current Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, along with Manchester faces Carol Ann Duffy and Jackie Kay, plus the likes of Caleb Femi, Thom Gunn, Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes and Claudia Rankine. Three categories are up for grabs: 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.
So, without further ado, as they say… The line-up for Best Collection is: Kaveh Akbar (Pilgrim Bell), Anthony Joseph (Sonnets For Albert), Shane McCrae (Cain Named The Animal), Kim Moore (All The Men I Never Married) and Helen Mort (The Illustrated Woman). In the final running for The Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection are: Mohammed El-Kurd (Rifqa), Holly Hopkins (The English Summer), Padraig Regan (Some Integrity), Warsan Shire (Bless The Daughter Raised By A Voice In Her Head) and Stephanie Sy-Quia (Amnion). The poets up for Best Single Poem are Louisa Campbell, Cecilia Knapp, Nick Laird, Carl Phillips and Claire Pollard. Good luck to everyone!
This year’s judges – Fatima Bhutto, Rishi Dastidar, alice hiller, Nadine Aisha Jassat and Stephen Sexton – read more than 215 poetry collections and 192 nominated single poems to find the most exciting poetry published in the British Isles. The presentation of the UK and Ireland’s most coveted poetry prizes will be hosted by celebrated novelist, columnist and activist Fatima Bhutto, the 2022 Forward Prizes jury chair. She says: “Poetry is the art of the people and the times we live in. It’s an honour to be the chair of judges for the Forward Prize this year and to be spending time in the company of my very talented co-judges as we dedicate our attention to the wider world of contemporary poetry.”
Can’t make it in person? Fear not, there will be an option to book a livestream ticket for this event nearer the time.