Three Irish poets have made the five-strong shortlist for the £10,000 Forward Prize for Best Collection. Ciaran Carson has been shortlisted for From Elsewhere (Gallery Press); Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin for The Boys of Bluehill (Gallery Press); and Paul Muldoon for One Thousand Things Worth Knowing (Faber). Also shortlisted were Claudia Rankine for Citizen: An American Lyric (Penguin) and Peter Riley for Due North (Shearsman).
The £5,000 Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection shortlist features Mona Arshi for Small Hands (Liverpool University Press, Pavilion Poetry); Sarah Howe for Loop of Jade (Chatto & Windus); Andrew McMillan for physical (Cape Poetry); Matthew Siegel for Blood Work (CB Editions); and Karen McCarthy Woolf for An Aviary of Small Birds (Carcanet)
Maura Dooley, born in Truro, Cornwall, of Irish extraction, has been shortlisted for the £1,000 Forward Prize for Best Single Poem for Cleaning Jim Dine's Heart (Poetry Review). Also shortlisted were Andrew Elliott for Döppelganger (Sonofabook); Ann Gray for My Blue Hen (The Moth); Claire Harman for The Mighty Hudson (TLS); and Kim Moore for In That Year (Poetry News).
The winners will be announced on September 28th at the Royal Festival Hall in London.
The shortlists for the prizes, which celebrate the best of the year’s poetry published in Britain and Ireland, treat subjects ranging from the Tottenham riots of 2012 to the erotic possibilities of the male body, Chinese journeys, Irish nuns, northern history, rain and the metaphors buried in “dirty” data. Several poets make their multiple identities – Sikh, Chinese, Jamaican, American, Irish, British – a feature of their work. The Best First Collection shortlist in particular, featuring three books by first- and second-generation immigrants to Britain, bears witness to a shift in the landscape of poetry publishing.
One of the books in the running for the Best Collection Prize offers a bold challenge to historic definitions of poetic form. Although Citizen: An American Lyric by Jamaica-born American Claudia Rankine is categorised as poetry, it has also been described as a “lyric essay”, a creative nonfiction genre that combines the essay form with poetic technique, often using juxtaposition instead of argument or narrative: the book features multi-media extracts from documentary film scripts, photo reels of Zinedine Zidane’s 2006 World Cup headbutt, President Obama’s oath of office, J M W Turner’s painting The Slave Ship and witness testimony to acts of everyday racism.
Writer and broadcaster A L Kennedy, chair of the 2015 Forward Prizes jury, says: “My fellow judges and I were exhilarated to read experienced writers who were extending their abilities: it’s very clear that a wonderfully vibrant new generation of poets is emerging. It was also particularly heartening to note so many different sources of material, the wide-ranging scope and radical edge of poets working today. Amongst our finest practitioners, poetry is still a medium for the discussion and exploration of anything and everything – just as it should be.”
The judging panel includes BBC producer Emma Harding and the poets Colette Bryce, Carrie Etter and Warsan Shire, the first Young Poet Laureate for London. They read 205 collections and 227 single poems.