The shortlist for the UK Forward prize was announced yesterday. It’s an interesting list, partly due to the success of Salt, who have collectively more nominations than all the usual big publishing names.
I think of myself as a dedicated reader of poetry, but I’ve only read two of these collections. Firstly, Gift Songs, by John Burnside, a complex examination of meaning and place in a secular reality. It's an ambitious collection, and the writing is terrific in places, but it's not my favourite Burnside book (The Good Neighbour is my favourite). I got bored at times, although that might be more my fault than Burnside's. Secondly, there's The Harbour Beyond the Movie by Luke Kennard, which blends wit and surrealism to emerge as a vastly entertaining and uncategorisable read. You can read Luke’s reaction to the news at his MySpace site, and decide whether you want to kill him or not. I think I’d rather just read his book again.
Best collection prize (£10,000)
Domestic Violence by Eavan Boland (Carcanet)
Gift Songs by John Burnside (Jonathan Cape)
The Drowned Book by Sean O'Brien (Picador)
Birds with a Broken Wing by Adam Thorpe (Jonathan Cape)
The Harbour Beyond the Movie by Luke Kennard (Salt Publishing)
Beasts of Nalunga by Jack Mapanje (Bloodaxe)
Best first collection prize (£5,000)
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)
Best single poem prize (£1,000)
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)
I don't think I've read any of them yet, unfortunately, although the John Burnside and Luke Kennard books would definitely be on my list to buy too.
I'm always more interested to see which poems are in the Best Poem category, as you can normally (roughly) guess which collections'll make the Best Collection and Best First Collection categories. For the latter, my certain bet's on Daljit Nagra. I'll be hugely surprised if he doesn't win. And I'd like Carole Satyamurti's 'The Day I Knew I Wouldn't Live Forever' to win the Best Poem category, although I don't know if it will: I've read the others and whilst, of course, each poem is very impressive and offers something quite unique, I was struck by hers when I first came across it in my contributor's copy of issue 32 of The Interpreter's House. Mind you, Jean Sprackland's poem from the Spring issue of Poetry Review is quite excellent... as ever, tough decisions for the judges!
The Good Neighbour (also my favourite), The Asylum Dance and The Light Trap are all better than Gift Songs imo.
Have read quite a few of those, luckily. I also reckon Daljit's a shoe-in for best 1st.
I'm not sure there are many predictable choices among the collections this year - Burnside, Boland and Nagra are the only ones I'd have guessed at, although I've not exactly got my finger on the pulse. Kennard, Mapanje, Rees, Challenger and Boulter are all very pleasant surprises to me.
I'm not sure you guys are right to expect Daljit to walk the first book prize. Very good though it is, Mel's book is weighty stuff - fresh, ambitous, philosophical and sexy too - and it repays repeated readings, something which makes it the favourite for me, though I need to know who's judging apart from Michael Symmons Roberts.
A very interesting list. I agree with James on the Burnside - I liked it, but it's not his best. For the others, it means a visit to the Scottish Poetry Library to check them out - I'm also in a no-book-buying month. Incidentally, Maybe the SPL staff could give you some suggestions for reading venues - the line-up sounds excellent.
I'm new to commenting on your blog ...I liked your informative run down. I'm looking forward to checking out these poets as must admit to not being too up-to-date on the list.
I think the Best First Collection prize is wide open. Could be any of the four.
On the main prize, I read a few poems from Jack Mapanje's book the other day. I'd heard him read some of them at StAnza. They look pretty good to me.
Then I read a few from Adam Thorpe's book. I was surprised, as he had a poem published in a recent issue of Poetry Review that I had thought very poor. But the poems I read from his collection were certainly of high quality.
On the best poem, David Harsent's The Hut in Question is brilliant. I mentioned it on this blog at the time it was published in Poetry Review. But I'd need to read the others to decide if it's a winner.
I don't think anyone is really up to date on all of these, so you're not alone. I think it's quite an eclectic list.
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