Northern Irish poets Michael Longley and Sinead Morrissey on Forward list
Michael Longley, who recently won the PEN Pinter prize, is one of five poets shortlisted for the £10,000 Forward prize for best collection, it was announced on Monday. At 77, Longley is the oldest of the poets shortlisted. His collection Angel Hill explores the landscapes of Ireland and Scotland through love poems, elegies and reflections on the Troubles.
He is joined by Sinead Morrissey, another poet from Northern Ireland on the main Forward shortlist, with her collection On Balance, which references fabled feats of engineering – the Titanic, Marconi’s radio – to explore states of balance and imbalance. The other contenders are Emily Berry’s Stranger, Baby, which addresses the loss of her mother in childhood; Tara Bergin’s The Tragic Death of Eleanor Marx, which draws on folksong, fairytale and theatrical monologue and plays with various narratives, including the deaths of Eleanor Marx (daughter of Karl) and of Flaubert’s Emma Bovary; and Nuar Alsadir’s Fourth Person Singular, a politically engaged book by a New York psychoanalyst born of Iraqi parents.
The Forward prize’s chair of judges, journalist and broadcaster Andrew Marr, said: “Reading so many collections of poems over a relatively short period gives one an intense and useful overview of the condition of poetry in English now … "I came away more convinced than ever that if you read journalism alone, or history alone, and yet you omit contemporary poetry, then you cannot properly understand the world you live in." Susannah Herbert, director of the Forward Arts Foundation which runs the Forward prizes for poetry, said: “This is a bold shortlist, full of new names, which take the wider world for their inspiration rather than sticking to territory marked safe for poetry.”
The Forward’s £5,000 Dennis prize for best first collection shortlist is: Maria Apichella’s Psalmody; Richard Georges Make Us All Islands; Eric Langley Raking Light; Nick Makoha Kingdom of Gravity;and Ocean Vuong Night Sky with Exit Wounds.
The shortlist for the £1,000 best single poem prize is: Malika Booker’s ‘Nine Nights’; Mary Jean Chan’s ‘//’; Harmony Holiday’s ‘The City Admits no Wrongdoing’; Ishion Hutchinson’s ‘Nightfall, Jane Ash Centre, St. Thomas’; and Ian Patterson’s ‘The Plenty of Nothing’.
Andrew Marr was joined on the judging panel by poets Ian Duhig and Mona Arshi, former children’s laureate Chris Riddell and writer and academic Sandeep Parmar. The jury read 186 new collections and 212 single poems.
The awards will be presented at an event at the Royal Festival Hall on Thursday 21 September, featuring readings from all the shortlisted books. The annual Forward Book of Poetry, containing the judges’ choice of the year’s poems. will be launched on the same day.
The prizes are sponsored by Bookmark Content, the content and communications company, and by the late Felix Dennis.