Alice Oswald (b.1966, Reading) Devon-based gardener and classicist, is as a poet intricately engaged with nature, and with histories both communal and linguistic. Her second book, Dart (2002) trailed the river Dart from its source, through the communities which rely on its waters, down to its mouth.
Since receiving the T. S. Eliot prize for that collection, her reputation has grown: her subsequent books – including Woods etc. and Memorial – have received the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, the Hawthornden Prize and the Ted Hughes Prize, amongst many others.
Oswald recalls that she began writing poetry at age eight when, after a sleepless night, she found herself ‘astonished by the clouds at dawn and realised they required a different kind of language.’ This search for a different kind of language runs through her career; her subjects – whether water, flowers, insects or Agamemnon – never settle down or still, are never simply their present selves.
Her shortlisted collection Falling Awake – including ‘Dunt’, 2007 winner of the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem – aims, as Oswald writes, ‘to speak relentlessly, anonymously, almost inadvertently, (as insects do) without using the mouth.’
Forward Prizes History: