Skip to main content

Forward Prizes 2007

As interesting remarks and consequent discussions on Rob Mackenzie’s Surroundings and Katy Evans Bush’s Baroque in Hackney testify to, the shortlists for the Forward Prizes for 2007 are now upon us: Britain’s richest poetry prizes at a total of £16,000 for the three categories.

What’s of real interest, though, is this year’s line-up of judges. Chair is the award-winning Michael Symmons-Roberts, joined by fellow poets Glyn Maxwell and Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze. As has been customary for some years now, Colin Greenwood also joins the panel: an accomplished musician in one of the greatest and most influential bands of recent times, Radiohead, but also a crucially committed and avid reader of poetry. The shocker (or at least for me) was to find out that editor of Guardian Unlimited Book, Sarah Crown, completes the Forward panel.

Interesting, as I’d always assumed she was a fiction buff, with little time for poetry. But it turns out that no, she reads at least ‘four or five new collections a month’, and ‘eschewed everything except poetry while preparing to judge the prize’. Fair enough. For those who aren’t fans and regular readers of contemporary poetry for one reason or another, Crown also has some interesting things to say about the experience of judging. The full article’s here, but I found the following paragraph most illuminating:

“I found that, by immersing myself in poetry, I read with far greater incisiveness and clarity. I no longer needed to make the gear shift that is generally required when you pick up a volume of poetry after reading prose; my ear was attuned to poetry's rhythms, and my eye - accustomed to the sight of poetry on the page - became far quicker at detecting themes, echoes and linguistic flourishes (reading the collections back to back also, of course, allowed me to arrive at qualitative judgments with far greater speed and conviction). As the days passed and the pile of "read" volumes grew taller, I also became increasingly aware of what a rare privilege it was to read a year's worth of poetry - I felt as if I was being given an insight into the country's collective conscious. Words resurfaced from collection to collection - caul, clarity, fetch - and themes emerged, of which the most prevalent was water: poets from every part of the British Isles - and beyond - turned again and again to rain, rivers, seas and floods. The subject found its ultimate expression in Sean O'Brien's The Drowned Book, which is a hymn to the wet stuff - a sort of municipal reimagining of Alice Oswald's book-length river poem, Dart.”

It might seem obvious once you think about it, then, but Crown hits on something here that a lot of readers who don’t read poetry could benefit from considering: that if you immerse yourself in poetry, and read it with the regularity you’ve read novels all your life, you become as accustomed to reading and enjoying verse as you do prose. Which can’t be a bad thing: after all, variety’s the spice of life, and contemporary poetry has a lot to offer once you stop dipping your toes in and take the plunge. I learnt that after moving from reading the odd Armitage, Duffy and Paterson poem to reading collections by lesser-known poets, as well as the hot houses and frontiers of poetry publishing, literary magazines.

Anyhow, to the Forward Prize 2007 shortlist. I’m betting Beasts of Nalulnga by Jack Mapanje to win Best Collection, Look We Have Coming to Dover! by Daljit Nagra for Best First Collection, and 'Dunt' by Alice Oswald (Poetry London) for Best Single Poem. Who do I want to win? With so much good poetry, I’m still not sure…


The Forward Prize for Best Collection (£10,000)

Domestic Violence by Eavan Boland (Carcanet)

Gift Songs by John Burnside (Jonathan Cape)

The Harbour Beyond the Movie by Luke Kennard (Salt Publishing)

Beasts of Nalulnga by Jack Mapanje (Bloodaxe)

Birds with a Broken Wing by Adam Thorpe (Jonathan Cape)


The Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection (£5000)

Twenty Four Preludes and Fugues on Dimitri Shostakovich by Joanna Boulter (Arc Publications)

Galatea by Melanie Challenger (Salt Publishing)

Look We Have Coming to Dover! by Daljit Nagra (Faber and Faber)

Andraste's Hair by Eleanor Rees (Salt Publishing)


The Forward Prize for Best Single Poem (£1000)

'The Hut in Question' by David Harsent (Poetry Review)

'Thursday' by Lorraine Mariner (The Rialto)

'Dunt' by Alice Oswald (Poetry London)

'The Day I Knew I Wouldn't Live Forever' by Carole Satyamurti (The Interpreter's House)

'Goulash' by Myra Schneider (The North)

'The Birkdale Nightingale' by Jean Sprackland (Poetry Review)

Comments

Andrew Bailey said…
Can I persuade you to cheer for Eleanor Rees? Not only very good, but another Sheffield alumna.
Ben Wilkinson said…
You certainly can, Andrew. I haven't read her collection yet, but as I say, my predictions for winners aren't necessarily based on who I want to win. Any of her poems online anywhere? I'll definitely have to buy her collection at some point: Salt also have an interesting short interview with her on their Forward Prize 2007 blogspot, I think, if you haven't seen it yet.
Ms Baroque said…
Well, call me curlish, but I found this paragraph of Sarah Crown's more illuminating:

"I found over the three-week period that I was physically longing for novels. Since I started reading to myself, aged, I guess, about six or seven, I've never been without a storybook - if you'll excuse the expression - for longer than 24 hours. Poetry, I found, stimulates a very different part of your brain from fiction; it enriches, but in different ways. To use a - doubtless hackneyed - food metaphor: if poetry is the haute cuisine of literature (the soufflés, the profiteroles), fiction is the meat. And I soon discovered that woman - at least, this woman - cannot live on soufflés alone. I craved narrative. About halfway through the fortnight I ventured, blinking, from my house to visit the supermarket for supplies and, without consciously intending it, found myself in a bookshop, where I feverishly bought a stack of novels. I placed them on the corner of my coffee table where they sat taunting me."

When did we reach this state of affairs??
Ben Wilkinson said…
Hmmm, indeed Katy: I bypassed that tripe as Crown attempting to come up with something profound regarding the relationship between prose and verse and failing miserably, due to either incompetence or deadlines. Comparing poetry to soufflés is most unagreeable.

Popular posts from this blog

Poetry in Motion

POETRY IN MOTION
Why one Reds supporter is committing his love for Liverpool FC to verse


Liverpool FC and poetry have a lot of previous – from John Toshack’s Gosh It’s Tosh collection in the late 70s, to the verse of Dave Kirby and Peter Etherington in the fanzine Red All Over the Land, to the lines written by poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, a University of Liverpool graduate, in the aftermath of 2012’s Hillsborough findings. Now there’s Ben Wilkinson, Reds fan and book critic for The Guardian and the Times Literary Supplement, who’s compiling a series of poems commemorating the club’s legends. “Football is part of the fabric of life, and anything that’s important to people finds its way into poetry,” he says. “Wilfred Owen’s poem 'Disabled' describes a soldier who loses the use of his legs, meaning he can never play football again. Philip Larkin’s 'MCMXIV' compares boys queuing to join the army to fans outside Villa Park. These poems have stood the test of time because t…

About the Author

Welcome to the website of the English poet and critic, Ben Wilkinson.
Ben was born in Staffordshire and now lives in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. He received his first degree from the University of Sheffield, and holds an MA and PhD from Sheffield Hallam University. He has won numerous awards for his poetry, including the Poetry Business Competition and a 2014 Northern Writers' Award
His debut full collection of poems, Way More Than Luck, appeared from Seren Books in February 2018.
He is a keen distance runner, lifelong Liverpool Football Club fan, and among other things he works as poetry critic for The Guardian and the Times Literary Supplement. You can find many of his reviews on this site.
To contact Ben about readings, workshops, or for any other enquiries, you can drop him a line at benwilko(at sign)gmail.com. Unfortunately, I am not able to consider unsolicited requests from authors for book reviews.

You can follow Ben on Twitter - @BenWilko85 - and on Facebook.

You can find B…

Way More Than Luck (Seren Books, 2018)

From the thumping heartbeat of the distance runner to the roar of football terraces across the decades, Ben Wilkinson’s debut confronts the struggles and passions that come to shape a life. Beginning with an interrogation of experiences of clinical depression and the redemptive power of art and running, the collection centres on a series of vivid character portraits, giving life to some of football's legends. By turns frank, comic, sinister and meditative – ‘the trouble with you, son, is that all your brains are in your head’ – these poems uncover the beautiful game’s magic and absurdity, hopes and disappointments, as striking metaphors for our everyday dramas. Elsewhere there are tender love poems, political satire and strange dream worlds, in an urgently lyrical book of poems that take many forms and modes of address: pantoum, sonnet, sestina; epistle, confession, dramatic monologue. All are united by a desire to speak with searching clarity about matters of the heart. Way More …