Seamus Heaney wins £10,000 Forward Prize

Seamus Heaney Seamus Heaney was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995

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Poet Seamus Heaney has been named winner of the Forward Prize, which comes with a cheque for £10,000.

The Nobel Prize winner scooped the trophy for Human Chain, which he has described as his most personally revealing collection of poems.

The Northern Irish writer had been nominated for the prize three times before, but this was his first win.

Judge and author Ruth Padel described Heaney's volume as "painful, honest, and delicately weighted".

Start Quote

This book is more naked, and I'm much more tentative talking about it than other books”

End Quote Seamus Heaney on his prize-winning collection, Human Chain

It was written a year after the poet suffered a stroke and the central poem, Miracle, was directly inspired by his illness.

Recalling the people who had to carry him up and down stairs when he was too weak to carry his own weight, he draws on the biblical imagery of the men who carried a paralysed man to Jesus to be healed.

"I realised the guys that are hardly mentioned are central... without them no miracle would have happened," Heaney told BBC Radio Ulster's Arts Extra last month.

Over the course of his career, Heaney has also won the Nobel Prize for Literature and the TS Eliot Prize, and has been made Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

His previous nominations at the Forward Prize came in 1996, for The Spirit Level, and in 2006, for District and Circle.

He has also been shortlisted twice in the best single poem category.

The ceremony also recognised poets in two further categories - the £5,000 Felix Dennis Prize for best first collection, and £1,000 for best single poem.


• Seamus Heaney - Human Chain

• Lachlan Mackinnon - Small Hours

• Sinead Morrissey - Through the Square Window

• Robin Robertson - The Wrecking Light

• Fiona Sampson - Rough Music

• Jo Shapcott - Of Mutability

The former went to Hilary Menos for Berg, which includes poems about icebergs floating down the Thames and aliens wading in the Hudson River.

Julia Copus took the single poem award for An Easy Passage, which was praised for its "unsettling strangeness, the shifts of perspective and confident line".

The winners were presented with their awards during a ceremony in London's Somerset House.

"This was an astonishingly strong year for poetry," said Ms Padel. "The judges enjoyed deliberating each of the categories [but] the decision was not easy."

Padel was joined by four fellow judges - poet and columnist Hugo Williams, performance poet Dreadlockalien, journalist and broadcaster Alex Clark, and actress and director Fiona Shaw.

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