Forward Prizes for Poetry 2020

Join us here live: 25 October. 15.00 - 16.30.

The Forward Prizes rank among the year’s great literary celebrations: this event is unmissable for anyone interested in the best new poetry published today. Hear poems from each of the 15 shortlisted poets and find out who has won the most coveted poetry prizes in the British Isles.

Shortlist for Best Collection: £10,000
Caroline Bird, Natalie Diaz, Vicki Feaver, David Morley, Pascale Petit

Shortlist for Best First Collection: £5,000
Ella Frears, Will Harris, Rachel Long, Nina Mingya Powles, Martha Sprackland

Shortlist for Best Single Poem: £1,000
Fiona Benson, Malika Booker, Regi Claire, Valzhyna Mort, Sarah Tsiang

Poems of desire – for a voice, for breathing space, for bodies missed or missing – are a recurring theme in this year’s shortlists. They celebrate a world whose inhabitants are spurred to song by the need to assert their own existence and history. They speak of flesh, muscle and all forms of touch, from the knock-out blows of boxer Tyson Fury to lovers’ kisses.

Several poets follow threads of language to places as various as the Dale Farm traveller site, a palace-prison in 16th-century Spain, an East London housing estate and the Mojave reservation of southern California, while others make vivid the stuff of everyday life: birdsong, lawnmowers, petrol stations.

The Forward Prizes judges, Alexandra Harris, Kim Moore, Roger Robinson, David Wheatley and Leaf Arbuthnot read over 208 poetry collections, and 205 single poems entered from journals, to find the most exciting poetry published across the UK and Ireland.

The Prizes, sponsored since 1992 by Bookmark, the global content marketing and communications agency, have a reputation for heralding fresh new voices as well as honouring famous names. Shortlisted and commended poems are brought together in the annual Forward Book of Poetry anthologies.

This event is available to the audiences and users of public libraries through the Living Knowledge Network.

PEN Pinter Prize: Linton Kwesi Johnson

Join the event: 12 October. 19.30 - 20.30. Linton Kwesi Johnson is presented with the 2020 PEN Pinter Prize.

The PEN Pinter Prize was established in 2009 by the charity English PEN, which defends freedom of expression and celebrates literature. In memory of Nobel-Laureate playwright Harold Pinter, the prize is awarded annually to a writer of outstanding literary merit resident in the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland or the Commonwealth who, in the words of Harold Pinter’s Nobel Prize in Literature speech, casts an ‘unflinching, unswerving’ gaze upon the world and shows a ‘fierce intellectual determination... to define the real truth of our lives and our societies’.

Linton Kwesi Johnson was chosen by this year’s judges; The Guardian’s Associate Editor for Culture Claire Armitstead; Dialogue Books Publisher Sharmaine Lovegrove, and author Max Porter. The judges said of Johnson: ‘Linton Kwesi Johnson is a poet, reggae icon, academic and campaigner, whose impact on the cultural landscape over the last half century has been colossal and multi-generational. His political ferocity and his tireless scrutiny of history are truly Pinteresque, as is the humour with which he pursues them.’

The prize will be shared with an International Writer of Courage: a writer who is active in defence of freedom of expression, often at great risk to their own safety and liberty, selected by Linton Kwesi Johnson from a shortlist of international cases supported by English PEN. The co-winner will be announced at the event, where they will accept their prize alongside Linton Kwesi Johnson.

This event is available to the audiences and users of public libraries through the Living Knowledge Network.

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