Belfast poet Sinead in the running for Forward Prize

Poet Sinead Morrissey
Poet Sinead Morrissey

Belfast poet Sinéad Morrissey has reached the shortlist for the 2013 Forward Prize for Poetry, for her latest collection, Parallax.

Born in Portadown, raised in Belfast and educated at Trinity College, Dublin, Morrissey’s poetic gift began to blossom early: she won the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award in 1990, when she was just 18.

Sinead, a lecturer in creative writing at Queen’s University, Belfast, has released four collections prior to her latest anthology: There Was Fire in Vancouver (1996), Between Here and There (2001), The State of the Prisons (2005), and Through the Square Window (2009). The title poem of the latter collection, which centres on the anxieties of motherhood and the darker corners of imagination, won first prize in the 2007 British National Poetry Competition.

Morrissey’s work is full of crystal sharp intensity and privileges daring explorations of female experience, sexuality, loss and motherhood - among numerous other themes.

The Forward Prize for Poetry has three categories - Best Collection, Best First Collection and Best Single Poem; Sinead has been nominated in the first category. The Forward Prize is one of the UK’s top annual poetry awards, worth £10,000 to the winner. It was created in 1991 by William Sieghart with the aim of extending poetry’s audience, raising poetry’s profile and linking poetry to people in new ways.

Welcoming Sinead’s success, Damian Smith, head of literature and drama at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said: “For 15 years Sinead has been an outstanding voice in contemporary poetry in English and we are delighted that, once again, her work is being recognised at the highest levels and for a collection which shows a poet reaching the crest of her powers in both private and very public poems.

“The Forward Prize was won by Seamus Heaney in 2010 and Sinéad is keeping good company in this category of Best Collection.”

Novelist Jeanette Winterson, who chairs a judging panel consisting of the actor/director Samuel West, the journalist David Mills and poets Paul Farley and Sheenagh Pugh, said: “This is a powerful year for poetry. We made our choices looking for poems that used a lit-up living language and had a sense of purpose.”

The prize will be awarded by Jeanette Winterson on October 1 at the Southbank Centre, London. Tickets for the event, at which Samuel West and other actors will read poetry from the shortlist, are now on sale. The 22nd annual Forward Book of Poetry, containing the judges’ choice of the year’s best poems, will be launched on the same day.

Sinead’s fellow contenders for the Forward Prize for Best Collection are Rebecca Goss, Glyn Maxwell, Jacob Polley and Michael Symmons Roberts.

Previous winners of the Forward Prize for Poetry include Don Paterson, Carol Ann Duffy, Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney, who won in 2010 for his collection entitled Human Chain.