From PhD thesis on everyday sexism to award-winning poetry collection: Kim Moore wins £10,000 Forward prize
Kim Moore has won this year’s £10,000 Forward prize for best collection for All The Men I Never Married, a book that first emerged from a PhD thesis in Poetry and Everyday Sexism at Manchester Metropolitan University. She has said in an interview: “In my PhD, I wanted to examine my own experiences of sexism and what happens when you put the white space of a poem around that experience. The strange thing was that the things I was thinking of as just silly incidents that didn’t really mean much began to change as I was writing about them, and ‘sent’ myself back there … When I turned them into a lyric poem, they suddenly began to present as being quite dark and upsetting.”
The book was reviewed enthusiastically last year by Write Out Loud’s Greg Freeman, who concluded: “I will be surprised if it is not shortlisted for an award or two. It certainly should be.” After Monday night’s readings by shortlisted poets, she was initially overcome at being told of her triumph, saying: “This means everything to me.”
The other collections shortlisted were Pilgrim Bell by Kaveh Akbar, Sonnets for Albert by Anthony Joseph, Cain Named the Animal by Shane McCrae, and The Illustrated Woman by Helen Mort.
After 30 years of the Forward prizes, the ceremony was held outside London for the first time, at Manchester’s Contact theatre. Organisers also took the opportunity to announce a new prize category for next year, that of best performance poet.
The Felix Dennis prize for best first collection went to Stephanie Sy-Quia for her collection Amnion, a debut collection of poems that questions the roots of migration and colonialism, charting what it means to grow up in a family divided by geography, history and language. She read a poem about a posh private school in England, skewering pupils and parents in a cut-glass, subversive voice.
Also shortlisted for best first collection were Rifqa by Mohammed El-Kurd, The English Summer by Holly Hopkins, Some Integrity by Padraig Regan, and Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head by Warsan Shire.
The winner of the best single poem prize was Nick Laird for ‘Up Late’, a long, painful and poignant elegy charting his father’s death in hospital from Covid. Receiving his prize, Laird said: “My father wasn’t a bookish man. I think he’d be bemused by this.”
The other poets shortlisted for best single poem were Louisa Campbell for 'Dog on a British Airways Airbus 319-100' - she enlisted audience participation for the performance of her poem, and also brandished a large dog's head; Cecilia Knapp for 'I’m Shouting I LOVED YOUR DAD at my Brother’s Cat'; Carl Phillips for 'Scattered Snows, to the North', and Clare Pollard for 'Pollen'.
The audience was welcomed by Contact theatre’s artistic director and CEO, Keisha Thompson, who spoke of her pride as a Mancunian that the Forwards had come to her city, with a short film celebrating Manchester’s poetry heritage and contemporary strength also shown.
Forwards founder William Sieghart ended the evening by appealing to the audience in the theatre and beyond, such as those watching the livestream, to consider donating to the Forwards, to help the organisation continue its work of supporting and promoting poetry.