Forward Book of Poetry

Trafalgar Square, Author Sinclair-Stevenson, $13.95 (0p) ISBN 978-1-85619-298-9
This anthology presents the three winners of the 1993 Forward Poetry Prize, an annual British competition, along with work by other writers nominated by editors and publishers. The panel of judges included Margaret Drabble and Stephen Spender. Their guidelines in choosing? Spender: ``A poem must be a verbal artifact which in form, vocabulary, texture, rhythm, must be distinct from some possibly alternative version which would be in prose.'' In his foreword, Spender notes with excitement his feeling that England is approaching a ``revival of interest in poetry,'' and the vitality of the selections here bears that out. Perhaps the best-known poet, Thom Gunn, won first prize for three poems, including his majestic elegy ``Lament,'' about a friend's death from AIDS, which opens the book. The other 59 writers, represented by one poem each, include Medbh McGuckian of Belfast, Northern Ireland; and third-prize winner Jackie Kay, whose searing dramatic voice is reminiscent of the American poet Ai. (Second prize went to Simon Armitage.) Many of the choices will be familiar only to those who have kept up with the British literary journals and magazines in which work originally appeared. Biographical notes would have been of interest; their absence has an equalizing effect. But the goal of the anthology seems to have been met as readers get a fresh sense of what is happening in British poetry and discover a wide range of poetic subjects and styles--a more personal art liberated from the restraints of tradition. (May)
Reviewed on: 07/04/1994
Release date: 07/01/1994
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