Saturday, August 02, 2008

Forward Poetry Prize Shortlists 2008

This year’s Forward Poetry Prize’s shortlists have been made public in the last few days. It’s one of the biggest UK poetry awards and does seem at least open to looking a little beyond the major publishing houses. But there’s not much I can say about it as I haven’t read many of the books.

There are three categories. First of all, the shortlist for Best Collection Published in the UK this year:

Jamie McKendrick - Crocodiles & Obelisks (Faber)
Sujata Bhatt - Pure Lizard (Carcanet)
Mick Imlah - The Lost Leader (Faber)
Jane Griffiths- Another Country (Bloodaxe)
Jen Hadfield - Nigh-No-Place (Bloodaxe)
Catherine Smith - Lip (Smith Doorstop)

I’ve read only Jen Hadfield’s book from that lot. It’s really good and I’m glad to see it there. The smart money would be on Mick Imlah, I think. It’s on Faber, it’s thematic, it’s big – everything about it looks monumental. People say it’s good too, which obviously helps. But without reading it and the other books, I can’t come to any judgement.

The second category is for Best First Collection, and I’ve read a few more here:

Simon Barraclough - Los Alamos Mon Amour (Salt)
Andrew Forster - Fear of Thunder (Flambard)
Frances Leviston - Public Dream (Picador)
Allison McVety - The Night Trotsky Came to Stay (Smith Doorstop)
Stephanie Norgate - Hidden River (Bloodaxe)
Kathryn Simmonds - Sunday at the Skin Launderette (Seren)

I’ve read the collections from Simon Barraclough, Frances Leviston and Stephanie Norgate (I reviewed Stephanie Norgate’s collection in Magma, issue 40). I might be tempted to investigate the others. I read a few Andrew Forster poems a few months ago and was impressed. Allison McVety’s book won the Poetry Business competition. Kathryn Simmonds book sounded interesting in a recent review in Magma, issue 41.

The third category is for Best Single Poem:

Seamus Heaney - Cutaways
Christopher Buehlman - Wanton
Catherine Ormell - Campaign Desk, December 1812
Don Paterson - Love Poem for Natalie 'Tusja' Beridze
Kate Rhodes - Wells-next-the-Sea
Tim Turnbull - Ode on a Grayson Perry Urn

I’ve read two of these, the Paterson and Turnbull, and both are extremely good. Heaney’s poem is bound to be a contender. The really strange thing about the other three choices are that they are all taken from the Bridport Prize – the 1st and 3rd placed poems and a commended poem. I don’t know what to make of that. In any case, a very good year for the Bridport! There’s an audio of Christopher Buehlman’s winning poem at the link.

I feel a little disappointed in the First Collection list, more because of books that aren’t on it rather than anything against those that are. I’m convinced that Matt Merritt’s Troy Town (Arrowhead) and Sam Meekings’s The Bestiary (Polygon) should have been shortlisted as genuine contenders to win. But I guess everyone has a book or two they think should be there but isn’t…

1 comment:

Matt Merritt said...

Thanks for the very kind comments, Rob. I agree entirely with you about Sam Meekings' book - it's superb.