Malika Booker and Rachel Long,

Malika Booker and Rachel Long are on the shortlists for the Forward Prizes for Poetry 2020 announced on June 10, 2020.

The Forward Prizes for Poetry are major British awards for poetry, presented annually at a public ceremony in London. They were founded by William Sieghart with the aim of celebrating excellence in poetry and increasing its audience in 1992. The prizes are given in the categories of The Forward Prize for Best Collection, The Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection, and The Forward Prize for Best Single Poem in memory of Michael Donaghy. Previous winners include Kei Miller, Danez Smith, and Claudia Rankine.

For 2020, the judging panel is chaired by writer, critic and social historian Alexandra Harris alongside poets Kim Moore, Roger Robinson and David Wheatley, and journalist Leaf Arbuthnot. This panel revealed the shortlist for 2020 on Wednesday, June 10.

Alexandra Harris, said, “Our shortlisted collections are rich in energy and surprise, intellectually agile, sensuous, made to last. There are transformative leaps of connection across centuries and continents. At a time when our lives are intensely local and global at once, these poets challenge us to think on many different scales: they ask what is large and small, move between intimate individual observation and chorus.”

There were two names of those interested in the African/Black poetry in two of the categories in Malika Booker and Rachel Long.

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

  • Ella Frears – Shine, Darling (Offord Road Books).
  • Will Harris – RENDANG (Granta Poetry).
  • Rachel Long My Darling from the Lions (Picador).
  • Nina Mingya Powles – Magnolia 木蘭 (Nine Arches Press).
  • Martha Sprackland – Citadel (Pavilion Poetry).
Rachel Long by Amaal Said.
Rachel Long. Photo/Amaal Said.

Rachel Long is the founder of Octavia Poetry Collective for Womxn of Colour, based at the Southbank Centre. She began writing poetry after attending a workshop with Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze, a transformative experience she describes as ‘radically intimate, and yet simultaneously expansive. I’ve been writing poems since I left that room.’

Reacting to the shortlist Long said, “Crisps and something sparkling ‘from a region next to Champagne’ for dinner!”

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

  • Fiona Benson – Mama Cockroach, I Love You (Poetry London).
  • Malika Booker – The Little Miracles (Magma).
  • Regi Claire – (Un)certainties (Mslexia & PBS Women’s Poetry Competition).
  • Valzhyna Mort – Nocturne for a Moving Train (The Poetry Review).
  • Sarah Tsiang – Dick pics (The Moth)
Malika Booker. Photo/Adrian Pope
Malika Booker. Photo/Adrian Pope

Malika Booker is the founder of the writer’s collective ‘Malika’s Kitchen’. Her first collection, Pepper Seed, was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre Prize; she is a Creative Writing Teaching Fellow at the University of Leeds.