Entertainment & Arts

Forward Prize: Capildeo leads poetry awards winners

Forward Prizes for Poetry winners Image copyright Adrian Pope
Image caption Forward Prizes for Poetry winners (l-r) Vahni Capildeo, Tiphanie Yanique and Sasha Dugdale

Vahni Capildeo has won the 25th Forward Prize for best collection of poetry.

The Trinidad-born poet, who lives in the UK, was awarded the £15,000 prize for her fourth collection, Measure of Expatriation, which explores issues of identity in Western culture.

The £5,000 prize for best first collection went to Tiphanie Yanique for Wife, which looks at gender and marriage.

Sasha Dugdale's Joy was named best single poem.

She won £1,000 for the work, published in PN Review earlier this year.

Shukria Rezaei was awarded the first Forward Prizes studentship to mark the Forward Arts Foundation's 25th anniversary.

The 18-year-old could not speak English when she arrived in the UK from Afghanistan four years ago and has gone on to win several awards for her work.

'Change, courage and purpose'

Jury chair Malika Booker said Capildeo's collection "is a work that amazes".

"We found a vertiginous excitement in the way in which the book grasps its subject: the sense of never quite being at home," she said. "This is poetry that transforms. When people in the future seek to know what it's like to live between places, traditions, habits and cultures, they will read this."

Capildeo moved to the UK in 19991 when she won a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford University and has gone on to work as an etymologist, someone who studies the history of words, for the Oxford English Dictionary.

She writes in her collection: "Language is my home, I say: Not one particular language."

Image copyright Forward Arts Foundation
Image caption Shukria Rezaei will be working at Oxford Spires Academy for a year

William Sieghart, founder of the prizes, said the winners "push at the limits of language and re-define the possibilities of poetry".

He said: "Across the world, the language of the media and of politics has shown itself to be depleted; unexamined slogans and cliches dominate public discourse.

"Against this background, the attention that Vahni Capildeo, Tiphanie Yanique and Sasha Dugdale give to the moral and musical weight of every word they use is inspiring.

"They will be new voices to many readers, they represent change, courage and purpose."

Rezaei's prize means she can stay for an extra year at Oxford Spires Academy to mentor students and encourage creative writing throughout the school.

The Forward Arts Foundation is also raising money to continue pioneering work in poetry the school is doing work with migrants and refugees, led by Shukria's teacher, poet Kate Clanchy.

The awards were given out at a ceremony at London's Royal Festival Hall on Tuesday.

Previous winners of the Forward prizes include Ted Hughes, Carol Ann Duffy and Seamus Heaney.

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