The United Kingdom’s Forward Prizes’ 2023 Shortlists in Poetry

In News by Porter Anderson

The UK-based Forward Prizes have added a performed-poetry category, the winners of all four shortlists to be named in October.

The late Seamus Heaney’s work, seen on shelves of Irish poetry here, is one of the past winners of the Forward Prizes, along with Simon Armitage, Thom Gunn, Ted Hughes, Carol Ann Duffy, Claudia Rankine, Jackie Kay, Caleb Femi, and others. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Peter Spiro

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Four Categories This Year
As we look at publishing and book contest activity this summer, one set of shortlists of interest comes from the 2023 cycle of the United Kingdom’s Forward Prizes for Poetry, in which 20 writers have been shortlisted in four categories.

The fourth category is new, honoring a single poem written and performed. The original three categories are for a single poem simply written (not performed); a prize for a first poetry collection; and an overall prize for a collection.

The winners are to be announced on October 16 in a program at Leeds Playhouse.

This year’s shortlistees include three poets based in Hong Kong, four in Ireland, and 25 percent of those shortlisted in the England’s North.

Independent presses represented in these shortlists are responsible for six of the 10 collections. Carcanet in Manchester has two titles in the collection group.

Forward Prizes Shortlist: Collection

This category’s purse is set at £10,000 (US$12,691).

  • Self Portrait as Othello by Jason Allen-Paisant (Carcanet)
  • Bright Fear by Mary Jean Chan (Faber & Faber)
  • A Change in the Air by Jane Clarke (Bloodaxe)
  • The Ink Cloud Reader by Kit Fan (Carcanet)
  • My Name is Abilene by Elisabeth Sennitt Clough (Salt)
Forward Prizes Shortlist: First Collection

This category’s purse is set at £5,000 (US$6,345).

  • ISDAL by Susannah Dickey (Pan Macmillan)
  • A Method, A Path by Rowan Evans (Bloomsbury)
  • Cane, Corn & Gully by Safiya Kamaria Kinshasa (Out-Spoken Press)
  • Bad Diaspora Poems by Momtaza Mehri (Jonathan Cape)
  • Cowboy by Kandace Siobhan Walker (Cheerio)
Forward Prizes Shortlist: Single Poem, Written

This category’s purse is set at £1,000 (US$1,269).

  • “My Body Tells Me That She’s Filing for Divorce” by Kathryn Bevis (Second Light Poetry Competition)
  • “Libation” by Malika Booker (Poetry Review)
  • “Oh Do You Know the Flower Man” by Kizziah Burton (Mslexia Women’s Poetry Competition)
  • “The Curse” by Breda Spaight (Southword)
  • “Fricatives” by Eric Yip (National Poetry Competition)
Forward Prizes Shortlist: Single Poem, Written and Performed

This category’s purse is set at £1,000 (US$1,269).

  • “Human. This Embodied Knowledge” by Zena Edwards
  • “The Cat Prince” by Michael Pedersen
  • “Almost Certainly” by Bohdan Piasecki
  • “The City Kids See the Sea” by Roger Robinson
  • “And our eyes are on Europe” by Nidhi Zak/Aria Eipe

Mónica Parle

In a prepared comment about this year’s shortlists, the Forward Arts Foundation’s co-executive director Mónica Parle is quoted, saying, “Both panels [of jurors] have curated such breadth of voices and forms.

“We recognize the huge challenge this act requires, particularly with such rich submissions this year.

“We’re especially pleased to see performance represented in the prizes. It’s such a vibrant scene, and we’re so pleased to be celebrating the oral tradition, which has been at the heart of poetry for millennia.”

In addition to these awards, the Forward Arts Foundation, a national charity in the United Kingdom, is behind National Poetry Day each year.


More from Publishing Perspectives on the Forward Prizes is here, more on international book and publishing awards is here, more on poetry is here, and more on the United Kingdom’s market is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.