National Poetry Day 2014
National Poetry Day invites users of social media to #thinkofapoem and Kei Miller wins the Forward Poetry Prize
Hard on the heels of yesterday's announcement of the Forward Poetry Prize comes the foundations's National Poetry Day celebrations. To encourage everyone from schoolchildren upwards to memorise their favourite poetry, founder William Sieghart invited poetry fans to use the hashtag #thinkofapoem to share their favourite lines of poetry on social media.
Yesterday, judges announced that the Forward Poetry Prize 2014 has been awarded to Jamaican poet Kei Miller for The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way To Zion, his third collection of poetry.
Inspired by Miller’s realisation that ‘maps pretend to be innocent, but aren’t’, the poems consist of a dialogue between a mapmaker and a ‘Rasta-man’ who believes ‘the mapmaker’s work is to make visible/ all them things that shoulda never exist in the first place/ like the conquest of pirates, like borders/ like the viral spread of governments’.
Jeremy Paxman, who headed a judging panel consisting of Cerys Matthews, Vahni Capildeo, Helen Mort and the late Dannie Abse, explained ‘Kei is doing something you don’t come across often: this is a beautifully voiced collection which struck us all with its boldness and wit. Many poets refer to multiple realities, different ways of observing the world. Kei doesn’t just refer, he articulates them’.
Miller was born in Kingston, Jamaica and studied poetry at the University of the West Indies before moving to Manchester as a graduate student. His first short story collection, The Fear of Stones and Other Stories, explored homophobia in Jamaica and was shortlisted in 2007 for the Commonwealth Writers’ Best First Book prize.
Recently diagnosed with ADHD, he credits the disorder with his extraordinary work rate (as well as writing novels, essays, short stories and poems, he also blogs and tweets).
He now teaches creative writing at Royal Holloway college, University of London, and advises aspiring poets to ‘Allow your work to be shaped by voices that aren’t poetic voices, people who have never thought of themselves as poets.’
The Forward Prizes, now in their 23rd year, were founded by the publisher and philanthropist William Sieghart and have previously been awarded to Seamus Heaney for Human Chain, Ted Hughes for Birthday Letters and Carol Ann Duffy for Mean Times.
This year’s other winners were Liz Berry, who won the Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection for Black Country, and Stephen Santus, the winner of the Best Single Poem for In A Restaurant.