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Leftfield Foward

The shortlists for the 19th annual Forward Prizes for Poetry, one of the UK ’s most valuable poetry prizes, was announced yesterday. "On the Best Collection short list two former category winners compete with poets on the list for the first time, while the short list for Best Single Poem brings many new faces to the fore."  It is especially good to see the small presses represented, as well as Lachlan Mackinnon, there - he's long been an Eyewear favourite.  However, it seems that for the main category, it may go to either Sampson or Shapcott.  Of course, one can never rule out the other strong contenders, especially Heaney.  I have yet to read all the debut collections, must get those.

"The shortlists are:

The Forward Prize for Best Collection
£10,000 – sponsored by the Forward Arts Foundation

Seamus Heaney         Human Chain                                       Faber & Faber

Lachlan Mackinnon     Small Hours                                         Faber & Faber

Sinéad Morrissey        Through the Square Window               Carcanet

Robin Robertson         The Wrecking Light                             Picador

Fiona Sampson          Rough Music                                       Carcanet

Jo Shapcott                 Of Mutability                                        Faber & Faber

The Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection
£5,000 – sponsored by Felix Dennis and the Forward Arts Foundation

Christian Campbell     Running the Dusk                               Peepal Tree

Hilary Menos               Berg                                                    Seren

Abegail Morley             How to Pour Madness into a Teacup Cinnamon Press

Helen Oswald             Learning Gravity                                 Tall Lighthouse

Steve Spence             A Curious Shipwreck                          Shearsman Books

Sam Willetts               New Light for the Old Dark                 Jonathan Cape

The Forward Prize for Best Single Poem in memory of Michael Donaghy
£1,000 – sponsored by the Forward Arts Foundation

Kate Bingham             On Highgate Hill                                  Times Literary Supplement

Julia Copus                 An easy passage                                Magma

Lydia Fulleylove           Night Drive                                          Bridport Prize

Chris Jones                 Sentences                                           Staple

Ian Pindar                    Mrs Beltinska in the Bath                    National Poetry Competition

Lee Sands                   The Reach                                          Times Literary Supplement

Poet and author Ruth Padel is chair of the judges of the Forward Prizes for Poetry 2010. The other judges are poet and columnist Hugo Williams, performance poet Dreadlockalien, journalist and broadcaster Alex Clark, and award-winning actress and director Fiona Shaw."


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With the death of the poetic genius John Ashbery, whose poems, translations, and criticism made him, to my mind, the most influential American poet since TS Eliot, 21st century poetry is moving into less certain territory.

Over the past few years, we have lost most of the truly great of our era: Edwin Morgan, Gunn, Hill, Heaney and Walcott, to name just five.  There are many more, of course. This is news too sad and deep to fathom this week.  I will write more perhaps later. 

I had a letter from Ashbery on my wall, and it inspired me daily.  He gave me advice for my PhD. He said kind things about a poetry book of mine.

He was a force for good serious play in poetry, and his appeal great. So many people I know and admire are at a loss this week because of his death. It is no consolation at present to think of the many thousands of living poets, just right now. But impressively, and even oddly, poetry itself seems to keep flowing.