Entertainment & Arts

John Burnside wins Forward poetry prize

John Burnside and book cover (Photo: Niall McDiarmid)
Image caption Black Cat Bone draws on sources such as Brueghel paintings and Delta blues lyrics

Poet John Burnside has been named the winner of the £10,000 Forward Prize for his collection Black Cat Bone.

The Scottish writer has been nominated for the prize four times, but this was his first win.

Rachael Boast won the Felix Dennis Prize for best first collection for Sidereal. The late R F Langley won the best single poem prize for To a Nightingale.

The winners were announced on Wednesday on the eve of National Poetry Day.

Burnside's Black Cat Bone, the judges said, had a "vitality of language, an undertow of complexity and an evocative dream logic".

The 56-year-old writer has published more than a dozen poetry collections and is also the author of a collection of short stories, two memoirs and several novels, including The Devil's Footprints (2007).

He is a former writer-in-residence at Dundee University and now teaches at the University of St Andrews.

"Burnside's Black Cat Bone is at once a very direct and a very subtle book," said Sir Andrew Motion, chairman of the judging panel.

"There's no doubting its big themes - of mortality, transience and various kinds of catastrophe - but they are handled in a way that rightly allows their menace to seem insidious as well as brutal.

"This makes the book one to linger over, as well as one to enjoy at first reading."

Joining the former Poet Laureate on the judging panel were author Lady Antonia Fraser, journalist Sameer Rahim and the poets Fiona Sampson and Leonie Rushforth.

The winners were announced at a ceremony in Somerset House, London.

Boast's debut collection Sidereal, which won £5,000, was described by the judges as "extraordinarily accomplished, wise without being pompous, compassionate without being sentimental'.

R F Langley's poem To a Nightingale was described by the judges as "a masterclass in precision".

Langley, who died in January 2011, taught English and Art History in Midlands schools before retiring in 1999. His Collected Poems (2000) was shortlisted for the Whitbread prize for poetry.

The Forward Prizes were founded in 1992 and reward both established and up-and-coming poets.

Irish poet Seamus Heaney received last year's prize for his collection, Human Chain.

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