2021 Forward Prize Winners

Congratulations to the 2021 winners:

Best Collection: Luke Kennard, Notes on the Sonnets

Best First Collection: Caleb Femi, Poor

Best Single Poem: Nicole Sealey, ‘Pages 22-29, An excerpt from The Ferguson Report: An Erasure’

Forward Prize for Best Collection 2021 (£10,000)

Kayo Chingonyi

A Blood Condition
(Chatto and Windus)

Tishani Doshi

A God at the Door
(Bloodaxe Books)

Selima Hill

Men Who Feed Pigeons
(Bloodaxe Books)

Luke Kennard

Notes on the Sonnets
(Penned in the Margins)

Stephen Sexton

Cheryl’s Destinies
(Penguin Poetry)

Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection 2021 (£5,000)

Caleb Femi

(Penguin Poetry)

Alice Hiller

Bird of Winter
(Pavilion Poetry)

Cynthia Miller

(Nine Arches Press)

Holly Pester

Comic Timing
(Granta Poetry)

Ralf Webb

Rotten Days in Late Summer
(Penguin Poetry)

Forward Prize for Best Single Poem 2021 (£1,000)

Fiona Benson

(Times Literary Supplement)

Natalie Linh Bolderston

‘Middle Name with Diacritics’
(National Poetry Competition)

John McCullough

‘Flower of Sulphur’
(Poetry London)

Denise Riley

(Poetry Ireland Review)

Nicole Sealey

‘Pages 22-29, An excerpt from The Ferguson Report: An Erasure’
(Poetry London)

‘We know that the year – and more – of the pandemic was also the year of reading. It was a time when everyone was reminded how much we need to be exposed to the power of the imagination. And the shortlists for the Forward Prizes 2021 are a reminder that the poetic imagination isn’t wholly introspective, although it cuts deep. It’s bold, limitless in ambition and it touches every part of our lives – our own hopes and fears, our communities, and the wider world that so often seems bewildering and over-powering. These poets find pathways into the deepest feelings and discover vantage points that take a reader (or a listener) to another place. In their hands we look at the world differently. This is a moment for poetry; and all these poets deliver. Read them, and take off.’

– James Naughtie, Chair of the 2021 Forward Prizes jury



Judges for the Forward Prizes for Poetry 2021 were broadcaster, journalist and writer Jim Naughtie, Chair of Judges, and poets Leontia Flynn, Pascale Petit, and Shivanee Ramlochan, and critic Tristam Fane Saunders.

The Forward Book of Poetry 2022


This is a moment for poetry. This is the best poetry of this moment. 

The judges of the Forward Prizes – poets Leontia Flynn, Shivanee Ramlochan and Pascale Petit and poetry critic Tristram Fane Saunders, chaired by broadcaster and writer James Naughtie – have selected the finest works published in the UK and Ireland. The Forward Book of Poetry 2022 features the best work taken from new collections and literary journals. 

This anthology offers a unique insight into a pandemic world and how we make sense of the continuing uncertainty around us. It is required reading for those who love poetry as well as the perfect spur for those who wish to experience poetry’s power to illuminate, challenge and connect – even in troubling times. 


Since its inception in 1992, the Forward Prizes for Poetry have been supported by Bookmark, the global content marketing and communications agency. It is with their unstinting support that we have been able to shortlist 310 poets over the past 30 years, championed excellence in poetry and reached thousands of school students with Forward Prize Books and activities.

The Forward Prizes are also grateful to the literary estate of the late Felix Dennis, the Garfield Weston Foundation, Arts Council England and a number of individual donors.

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