I am a poet who would like my work to be considered for a Forward Prize. What are the options open to me?

The Forward Prizes welcome submissions from book publishers based in UK or Ireland in two categories: Best Collection and Best First Collection.

The third category, Best Single Poem – Written, accepts entries from organisers of British and Irish competitions and from editors of magazines/periodicals and journals. We do not accept submissions by poets of their own work for these three categories, so you would need to ask your publisher to submit on your behalf.

The fourth category, Best Single Poem – Performed, is the only category for which we allow self-submission.

Please read the entry guidance closely to avoid disappointment.

Can I enter my own manuscript or self-published book into the Forward Prizes for Poetry?

No. The Forward Prizes for Poetry celebrate poetry publishing as well as honouring individual books and poets. We invite publishers to submit eligible poetry titles and we keep entries to a manageable level for the judges (just over 200 books) by capping the number of books that can be entered per publisher.

Why are self-published collections ineligible and how do the Forward Prizes define a self-published collection?

The Forward Prizes are open to books nominated by publishers and it does not accept books nominated by the authors themselves. This keeps the number of entries at a manageable level for the judges to read. It also means that the publishers are part of the judging process, the publisher selects which books to nominate and, in so doing, decide which books will be read and considered. This means if the author is part of the team at the publishing house, there is a conflict of interest, and the book is considered self-published for the purposes of the prizes.

Why is there a cap on the number of entries publishers can submit?

The Forward Prizes for Poetry rely on the careful reading and thoughtful deliberation of judges. We need to keep submissions to a manageable level, allowing judges to consider each book with care. We think it fairer to ask editors to select which books to put forward, rather than sifting entries after they have been submitted.

We do, however, have a space for you to list titles that are eligible for this year’s competition that you would like the judges to consider for judge’s call-ins.

Can judges call in books or poems that have not been submitted?

Yes. If judges come across a book, or a poem from a journal, in their own reading which they would like to consider for the Forward Prizes for Poetry, they may call it in. This will not affect the number of books that can be submitted by publishers.

Why are books by poets who have been shortlisted for a Forward Prize in the past 10 years not counted within the cap of titles that can be submitted per publisher?

Accepting submissions of books by shortlisted alumni, over and above publishers’ standard allocations of four books per prize, is a way of continuing to recognise shortlisted poets’ achievements beyond the year of their shortlisting.

We also want to ensure Forward Prize judges see a wide range of the best new poetry written today. In the past, when selecting which books to submit, publishers often chose to enter books by poets who had already had Forward Prize success. By not including these in the publisher’s standard allocation, we encourage publishers to use their allocation to submit books by poets who have not already been celebrated through the prizes.

My poet previously authored a very short poetry book/chapbook/pamphlet. Is their new book eligible for the Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection?

The Forward Prizes are open to collections of poetry of more than 40 pages. Therefore, a poet’s first collection is generally their first poetry publication of more than 40 pages.

In rare cases where a pamphlet-length first publication was bulked up with notes, acknowledgements, fly-leaves, dedications etc, Forward Arts Foundation will decide eligibility on a case-by-case basis.

My poet previously authored a book of poems combined with another genre. Is their new book eligible for the Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection?

This is considered on a case-by-case basis. Usually, if a poet has previously published a book that is more than half poetry, we will consider this to have been their first collection.

My poet previously authored a book of poems for children. Is their first poetry book for adult readers eligible for the Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection?

This is considered on a case-by-case basis. If a poet has previously published a book specifically for children, we will accept their first poetry book for adults into the Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection. Poetry books for young adults and older teens can be entered into the Forward Prizes and are therefore considered to be a poet’s first collection.

I am a publisher of poetry books. Can I submit a poem by one of my poets, already published in a magazine, to the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem?

No. The Best Single Poem category invites submissions from the editors of magazines and organisers of competitions. Each magazine and competition has an allocation of up to three poems and they choose which poems to put forward. Most of them do this privately (we don’t disclose who has been entered) but a few run readers’ polls or readers’ nominations to choose which poems to submit.

We are submitting ‘bound proofs’. How should these be bound?

We welcome bound proofs in a variety of different forms. Our main concern is that pages stay together throughout the long judging process. Some publishers create perfect bound mock-ups, but most use velo, comb bindings or spine bars. If you use spine bars, please use the slimmest you can, as some manuscripts with loose spine bars come apart. Please do not send manuscripts secured by paperclips, staples, treasury tags, filing clips, dog clips, wallets or folders.

Please include the title, poet’s name and publisher on the cover of your proof. If you’ve designed your cover we recommend putting a mock-up on the front.

If you are sending bound proofs, remember to send us a copy of the finished book when it is produced. We will request more copies if the title is shortlisted.

I organise a poetry competition and wish to enter work into the Forward Prizes. Can I enter poems which were commended as well as the winning poem?

You can enter up to three poems into the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem which either won, were placed or commended in your competition. Most competition organisers will enter their first, second and third placed poems, but this is up to you. Remember, poems which have been published in a collection or pamphlet before the Forward Prizes closing date are not eligible for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. So, if one of your top three poems has already been published in a book or pamphlet you may wish to send one of your highly commended poems in its place.

What role do the Trustees of the Forward Arts Foundation play in the running of the Forward Prizes?

The Trustees’ are responsible for the charity’s sound governance and good name. Their responsibilities do not extend to choosing members of the Forward jury, nor do they involve themselves directly in the running of the Prizes. Since the Prizes were founded in 1992 by William Sieghart, each jury has featured five eminent creative and critical minds, a mix of poets and non-poets, including novelists, artists, historians, musicians, broadcasters, academics or public figures with a strong interest in contemporary literature.