You are here

Danez Smith wins Forward Prize for Best Collection

The winners of the Forward Prizes for Poetry 2018 were announced at a ceremony at the Queen Elizabeth Hall at Southbank Centre.

The Forward Prize for Best Collection (£10,000) 
Danez Smith – Don’t Call Us Dead (Chatto & Windus)

The Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection (£5,000) 
Phoebe Power – Shrines of Upper Austria (Carcanet)

The Forward Prize for Best Single Poem Shortlist (£1,000)
Liz Berry – 'The Republic of Motherhood' (Granta)

Don't Call Us Dead

Image Credit: 

African-American poet Danez Smith, aged 29, has become the youngest poet ever to win the £10,000 prize for Best Collection with their powerful second collection Don't Call Us Dead. The book confronts death, police brutality, race, gender as well as Smith's own HIV-status. It's visceral but there are moments of lightness. Smith plays with musical references throughout, using lines from Beyoncé, Lauryn Hill, Whitney Houston and Erykah Badu among others. 

Chair judge Bidisha paid tribute to Don't Call Us Dead, calling it “a powerful warning: this is what’s happening. Be alert, pay attention!”

There’s desire and vulnerability. For us, this was a passionate and very contemporary collection and very universal in lots of ways. It’s not just about reducing a poet and saying they’re writing about police brutality in America. It’s about injustice and it’s about countering inequality with a stance of saying ‘I’m going to get up and speak out, I’m going to externalise my reality’. We loved that, the confidence of it.
Bidisha, chair of judges

Bidisha also announced Phoebe Power as the winner of the £5,000 Felix Dennis award for best first collection for Shrines of Upper Austria, which explores the culture of Power’s grandmother’s homeland, and Liz Berry as winner of the £1,000 best single poem prize for 'The Republic of Motherhood', which tackles the experience of becoming a new mother.

Bidisha was joined on the judging panel by Chris McCabe, Poetry Librarian here at the National Poetry Library, and poets Mimi Khalvati, Niall Campbell and Jen Campbell.