The night kicked off with a bang, with Liz Berry winning the prize for Best Poem with The Republic of Motherhood. The poem, which was originally published in Granta magazine, is taken from Liz's collection of the same name, and sees Liz write about how she “crossed the border into the Republic of Motherhood / and found it a queendom, a wild queendom." Liz had previously won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection for Black Country in 2014.
Fellow Chatto author Danez Smith was then named as the winner of the prize for Best Collection with Don’t Call Us Dead. At 29, Danez is the youngest ever winner of the prestigious £10,000 award - previously won by the likes of Carol Ann Duffy and Sinead Morrisey - and the first to identify as gender-neutral.
Don't Call Us Dead is Smith's second collection, following 2014's Insert [Boy], and was a finalist in last year's National Book Award for Poetry. Don't Call Us Dead has been widely-praised, with the New Yorker saying "[Smith’s] poems are enriched to the point of volatility, but they pay out, often, in sudden joy." The collection includes the poem Dear White America, which has been viewed more than 300,000 times on YouTube.
Speaking of Danez’s win, chair of judges Bidisha Mamata said: "The tight lyrical poems in Don’t Call Us Dead feel utterly contemporary, and exciting. Smith’s finely crafted poetry makes us look anew at the intertwined natures of politics and sexuality and stands as a powerful warning: this is what’s happening, be alert, pay attention."