Danez Smith, winner of the 2018 Forward Prize for Best Collection

Danez Smith, credit: Adrian Pope

Last night (18 September) saw the 2018 Forward Prizes for Poetry taking place at the Southbank Centre, with major award wins for Chatto & Windus poets Danez Smith and Liz Berry.

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.

Liz Berry, winner of the Best Single Poem Prize at the Forward Poetry Prizes 2018

Liz Berry, credit: Adrian Pope

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."

  • Don't Call Us Dead

    *A Finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry 2017*

    *A Financial Times and Telegraph Book of the Year 2018*

    ‘[Smith’s] poems are enriched to the point of volatility, but they pay out, often, in sudden joy’ The New Yorker

    Award-winning poet Danez Smith is a ground-breaking force, celebrated for deft lyrics, urgent subjects, and performative power. Don’t Call Us Dead opens with a heartrending sequence that imagines an afterlife for black men shot by police, a place where suspicion, violence, and grief are forgotten and replaced with the safety, love and longevity they deserved here on earth. Smith turns then to desire, mortality – the dangers experienced in skin and body and blood – and an HIV-positive diagnosis.

    ‘Some of us are killed / in pieces,’ Smith writes, ‘some of us all at once.’ Don’t Call Us Dead is an astonishing and ambitious collection, one that confronts, praises, and rebukes an America where every day is too often a funeral and not often enough a miracle.

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