Stephen Sexton

Stephen Sexton (b. 1988, Belfast) won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection in 2019 for If All the World and Love Were Young, which he describes as ‘more a project book or concept album’ than Cheryl’s Destinies. ‘Generally speaking’, he writes, Cheryl’s Destinies is a collection of poems ‘trying to articulate, in some way or another, how the imagination responds to stress, how it comforts and preserves itself’.

This idea of preservation is a central part of Sexton’s poetic practice; Cheryl’s Destinies ends with a long elegy for his early mentor Ciaran Carson, an accumulation of quotidian details and minutiae, trying to hold on to ‘those afternoons of etymology / in small back rooms both dishabille and elegant’. Sexton’s poems are firmly rooted in the geography and physicality of Belfast, where he was born and still lives.


Forward Prizes History:

  • 2019 Forward Prizes for Best First Collection, winner for If All the World and Love Were Young (Penguin Poetry)