Caleb Femi is among the winners of the Forward Prizes for Poetry 2021 in London. Femi’s ‘Poor’ won the best first collection category of the award. Femi was born in Kano and was London’s first Young People’s Laureate. The award organiser described him as a film-maker, photographer and poet.
The 2021 Forward Prizes included three prizes: The Forward Prize for Best Collection £10,000 (about N7,020,000), The Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection £5,000 (about N3, 510,000) and The Forward Prize for Best Single Poem £1,000 (about N702,000).
The award comes with an annual anthology that brings together the best new work published in the UK and Ireland.
The Best Collection was won by Luke Kennard’s ‘Notes on the Sonnets’ while Nicole Sealey’s excerpt from ‘The Ferguson Report’ won the Best Single Poem category of the award.
The Forward Prizes was founded by William Sieghart with the aim of celebrating excellence in poetry and increasing its audience in 1992. Previous winners include Kei Miller, Danez Smith, and Claudia Rankine, and Malika Booker.
The judges for the Forward Prizes for Poetry 2021 are broadcaster, journalist and writer James Naughtie, who chaired the panel. He was joined by poets Leontia Flynn, Pascale Petit and Shivanee Ramlochan and by poetry critic Tristram Fane Saunders.
Caleb Femi’s response was, “POOR won Best First Collection at the Forward Prizes for Poetry. There were four other writers equally deserving of the honour: Alice Hiller, Ralf Webb, Holly Pester, Cynthia Miller. Your collections are incredible. Prizes are prizes but the real win is in completing the work.”
His poetry both bears witness and celebrates resilience in the face of urban poverty.