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Forward Prize winners announced | 05-Oct-13

Michael Symmons Roberts wins Forward Prize for Best Collection

Publicity material for this announcement says:

Forward Prize winners have been announced:

The Forward Prize for Best Collection (£10,000)
Drysalter, Michael Symmons Roberts   Cape Poetry, Random House 

The Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection (£5,000)
Dear Boy, Emily Berry    Faber & Faber

The Forward Prize for Best Single Poem (£1,000)
The Metric System, Nick MacKinnon   The Warwick Review

The winner of the 2013 Forward Prize for Best Collection is Michael Symmons Roberts for Drysalter, a collection of 150 poems, each written within a strict formal constraint of 15 lines.

Chair of the judges Jeanette Winterson, whose panel consisted of the actor/director Samuel West, the journalist David Mills and the poets Paul Farley and Sheenagh Pugh said:  'We need to be able to talk of matters of faith and the soul, and how the soul intersects with the heart. What Symmons Roberts does is difficult but necessary now - it addresses a fissure in the human psyche, how we deal with faith and secularism; how we find a life.'

Michael Symmons Roberts said of his collection: 'It's called Drysalter partly in response to the old high street traders called drysalters, who were dealers in gums, drugs, poisons and powders. And the title?s also a nod to the psalter, those medieval day-books that contained psalms, but also jokes and cartoons and marginalia.'

Michael Symmons Roberts has published five collections of poetry, including Corpus, which won the 2004 Whitbread Poetry Award and was shortlisted for the Forward, T.S. Eliot and Griffin International Prizes. He has also published two novels, Patrick's Alphabet (2006) and Breath (2008), and a non-fiction book Edgelands (2011, with Paul Farley) which won the Jerwood Prize and the Foyles Book of Ideas Award. He is a frequent collaborator with the composer James MacMillan (their opera for Welsh National Opera, The Sacrifice, won the RPS Award) and is also an award-winning radio writer and documentary film-maker.

Symmons Roberts was born in Preston, Lancashire, in 1963. A thorough-going atheist as a teenager, he chose to study Theology and Philosophy at Oxford University in order to 'talk believers out of their faith'. The ploy backfired. "As university went on I got deeply into philosophy - and the philosophy completely undermined my atheism, by making me realize that there was no overarching objectivity, no Dawkinsian bedrock of common sense if you strip everything away.'

Emily Berry wins the Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection. Her book Dear Boy is a dramatic and inventive debut, whose darkly witty poems explore lives lived strangely in unusual worlds, through a series of deft and seductive soliloquies. Jeannette Winterson said: 'The Best First Collection category has a political dimension.  What voices are speaking and what are those voices saying about our world now. Dear Boy is not bound by the modern, but has an ear to the ground for the pavement beats of life. We like the confidence of the first person, multiple, reflective and new.'

'The Metric System' by Nick MacKinnon is the Best Single Poem. 

This is the first year that the Forward Prizes for Poetry have been awarded at a public event with readings from the shortlisted collections. All shortlisted poets are included in the the 22nd annual Forward Book of Poetry, containing the judges' choice of the year's best poems.

Also for the first time this year, students at GCSE and A Level stages have been invited to participate in the judging process by writing critiques of selected poems on the shortlists, available on the Forward Arts Foundation website.  
@forwardprizes #forwardprizes

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