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Winners of the Forward Prizes for Poetry 2019

The Forward Prizes for Poetry 2019 were awarded at a ceremony at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on 20 October.

The Forward Prize for Best Collection (£10,000)

Fiona Benson – Vertigo & Ghost (Cape Poetry)

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

Stephen Sexton – If All the World and Love Were Young (Penguin Books)

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

Parwana Fayyaz – ‘Forty Names’ (PN Review)

The highly coveted poetry prizes were awarded live on stage by writer and broadcaster Shahidha Bari who chaired the judging panel of poets Tara Bergin, Andrew McMillan and Carol Rumens, alongside Jamie Andrews, Head of Culture and Learning at the British Library.

Fiona Benson’s second collection, Vertigo & Ghost, won the prestigious £10,000 Forward prize for best poetry collection, seeing off competition from fellow TS Eliot prize-shortlisted poets Ilya Kaminsky and Vidyan Ravinthiran ahead of that prize announcement next year. Described as a collection that brings the violence of Greek myths into the #MeToo era, Vertigo & Ghost explores female fear, desire and ferocity, while rebranding the god Zeus as a serial rapist. 

Stephen Sexton’s If All the World and Love Were Young won the £5,000 Felix Dennis prize for best first collection, with his moving exploration of how video games shaped his grief over his mother’s death.

The Afghani poet Parwana Fayyaz took home the prize for best single poem for 'Forty Names', which depicts the experience of 40 women who jump off of a cliff in order to preserve their “honour”. Fayyaz only began to write poetry in 2010, when she learned English as a second language.