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2012 Forward Prizes Go to Denise Riley and Jorie Graham

By Harriet Staff

denise

The Guardian has just announced the winners of this year’s Forward Prize, and they include the first American female winner ever–that would be Jorie Graham! And Denise Riley takes the prize for best single poem, for her first published work in a decade, “A Part Song.” We pointed to that when it was first published. Congratulations to all. Here’s more from The Guardian:

Jorie Graham has become the first American woman ever to win one of the UK’s most prestigious poetry accolades, the Forward prize for best collection, beating Oxford’s professor of poetry Geoffrey Hill to take the £10,000 award.

Graham has won the Pulitzer prize for her poetry in the US, where the Poetry Foundation has called her “perhaps the most celebrated poet of the American post-war generation”, but she is perhaps less well-known than some of her American contemporaries in the UK. The Forward judges expressed their hope that her win this evening for her 12th collection, Place, would find her “startling, powerful” poetry a wider readership in the UK.

A series of meditations “written in a uneasy lull before an unknowable, potentially drastic change”, Place opens with a poem set on 5 June on Omaha beach as a horse passes by: “the rider looking straight / ahead and yet / smiling without looking at me as we / both smiled for the young / animal”. Judges, headed by the poet Leonie Rushforth, called it “powerful, never predictable” and “a joy” to read, showing off the poet’s “huge confidence” and original use of form. “The energy, intelligence and breadth of the poems … reflect a heightened perception and a philosophical exploration of the discomfort of living,” said Rushforth and her fellow judges, a panel of the poets Ian McMillan and Alice Oswald and the literary critics Emma Hogan and Megan Walsh.

Rushforth said the decision to choose Graham over a shortlist which also featured Hill’s Odi Barbare and Australian poet Barry Hill’s collection Naked Clay, was “happily unanimous”. “It is a challenging collection of unusual force and originality, forging connections between inner experience and a world in crisis,” she said.

Forward prize founder William Sieghart said he was “delighted” that Graham was joining a list of esteemed former winners of the best collection prize including Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes and Carol Ann Duffy. “I hope that she will now be discovered by more readers on this side of the Atlantic,” he said.

The £5,000 Felix Dennis award for best first collection went to Sam Riviere’s 81 Austerities, an “effortless, wide ranging and confident” look at everyday life in the digital world, said judges, while Denise Riley’s first published poem in five years, a “heart-breaking” meditation on the loss of her son entitled “A Part Song”, won the £1,000 prize for best single poem, in memory of Michael Donaghy.

“81 Austerities began life as a blog and has retained that exhilarating immediacy as a collection. It takes on the hollowed-out languages of commerce and digital media and performs a kind of ruthless forensics on them,” said Rushforth. “Denise Riley’s ‘A Part Song’ struck us all powerfully. It is a really searing poem wrestling a protean grief into poetic form.”

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Posted in Poetry News on Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012 by Harriet Staff.