The jury for the 2019 Forward Prizes, the UK’s most widely coveted awards for new poetry, is announced today (21 Jan 2019).
Our very own Shahidha Bari, presenter of BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking,will chair the judging panel. She is joined by Jamie Andrews, head of Cultural and Learning Programming at the British Library and the poets Tara Bergin, Andrew McMillan and Carol Rumens.
The Forward Prizes, whose winners have included Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, Alice Oswald and Claudia Rankine, will be presented on Sunday 20 October 2019 at a public ceremony as part of Southbank Centre’s Poetry International festival. The awards are distinctive in honouring new voices alongside internationally established names, and in attracting youthful, diverse audiences. Last year Danez Smith, 29, became the youngest ever winner of the prestigious Best Collection prize.
“As new audiences turn to poetry of all kinds, I’m thrilled to be chairing the Forward Prizes, which support talent and encourage brilliance,” says Shahidha Bari. “In uncertain times like ours, we search for the words that could capture who we are, how we feel and what we hope to become. Poetry matters more than ever, responding to our private lives and our shared futures. It can be daring and humane in an age of division and hostility.”
The awards – worth a total of £16,000 – are sponsored by Bookmark Content, the global content and communications agency, and are run by the Forward Arts Foundation. They comprise the Forward Prize for Best Collection (£10,000), the Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection (£5,000) and the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem (£1,000).
Andrew McMillan, one of the three poets on the 2019 jury says, “When my debut collection came out, the Forwards were incredibly supportive and have continued to be so since – to be shortlisted or highly commended feels like being welcomed into an extended family of poets. I’m thrilled to have the chance to be opening the doors wide, and letting more people in.”
The judges’ selection of shortlisted and highly commended poems will be published on 5 September 2019 in the annual Forward Book of Poetry.
Poems of the Decade: An Anthology of the Forward Books of Poetry has been an A level English set text on the Edexcel exam board since 2014.
About the Forward Prizes
The Forward Prizes for Poetry are the most widely coveted awards for new poetry published in the UK and Ireland. The annual ceremony brings poetry’s biggest names to London’s Southbank to perform alongside rising talent before diverse and enthusiastic audiences. Notable alumni include Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes and Claudia Rankine, while Simon Armitage, Jackie Kay, Carol Ann Duffy and Daljit Nagra are among those boosted by early career Forward recognition. The prizes, run by the Forward Arts Foundation since 1992, are awarded at Southbank centre and sponsored by Bookmark Content. There are three categories: the Forward Prize for Best Collection, the Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection and the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem.
About Dr Shahidha Bari
Shahidha Bari is a writer, academic and broadcaster working in the fields of literature, philosophy and art. Born in 1980, she studied at Cambridge and now teaches at the University of London. She reviews for the Financial Times, Guardian and Frieze among others and won the Observer Anthony Burgess Prize for Arts Journalism in 2015. She features frequently on BBC TV and radio and is a presenter of BBC Radio 3’s nightly Arts and Ideas programme Free Thinking. She lives in London.