Caleb Femi, Nicole Sealey win at UK’s Forward Prizes for Poetry 2021

Caleb Femi and Nicole Sealey won in their categories at the Forward Prizes for Poetry 2021 in London, UK on Sunday, October 24, 2021.

The Forward Prizes for Poetry are awards for poetry, presented annually at a public ceremony in London, UK. They were founded by William Sieghart with the aim of celebrating excellence in poetry and increasing its audience in 1992. Previous winners include Kei Miller, Danez Smith, and Claudia Rankine, and Malika Booker.

There are three prizes on offer: The Forward Prize for Best Collection (£10,000), The Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection (£5,000) and The Forward Prize for Best Single Poem (£1,000). They are accompanied by the Forward Book of Poetry, an annual anthology which brings together the best new work published in the UK and Ireland.

The Judges for the Forward Prizes for Poetry 2021 are Broadcaster, journalist and writer James Naughtie, chaired the panel. He was joined by poets Leontia Flynn, Pascale Petit and Shivanee Ramlochan and by poetry critic Tristram Fane Saunders. The shortlisted writers for the awards were announced on June 8 before the winners were made public at the Southbank Centre, London on Sunday.

The writers of African descent who won in their categories are;

Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection 2021 (£5,000)

  • Caleb Femi, Poor (Penguin Poetry)

Forward Prize for Best Single Poem 2021 (£1,000)

  • Nicole Sealey, ‘Pages 22-29, An excerpt from The Ferguson Report: An Erasure’ (Poetry London)

Nicole Sealey responded to the ceremony with the Tweet, “Big thanks to @ForwardPrizesfor a wonderful evening of poetry—congrats to all! Also, I’m ‘bout to go broke buying everyone’s books… send help!”

Caleb Femi’s response was, “POOR won Best First Collection at the Forward Prizes for Poetry. There were four other writers equally deserving of the honour: Alice Hiller, Ralf Webb, Holly Pester, Cynthia Miller. Your collections are incredible. Prizes are prizes but the real win is in completing the work.”