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Forward Prize 2016: The Felix Dennis prize for best first collection – roundup

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Every Little Sound by Ruby Robinson, Tonguit by Harry Giles, Wife by Tiphanie Yanique, Disko Bay by Nancy Campbell, Distance by Ron Carey

Ruby Robinson’s Every Little Sound (Liverpool University, £9.99) is an intelligent and disturbing debut that explores how family affects both our sense of self and our intimate relationships. Composed of free verse and occasional prose poems, it is stylistically original in its diction and syntax as speaker and poet grapple to render experience. It often gives rise to a surreal quality that appears menacing: “And what use am I, / half‑witted, unpicked, flaked / out, half a leg, a spewing mouth, brittle hair, / scooped-out heart crazed on the floor, / racked with side effects?”

Mingling English, a “mongrel and magpie”Scots, and Orcadian, Harry Giles’s Tonguit (Freight, £8.99) begins with a bold ars poetica. “Brave” energetically lists the reasons why the speaker sings, and captures the Scotland he sings of: “whit wants independence fae Tories”; “whit cadna hink o a grander wey tae / end a nicht as wi a poke o chips n curry sauce”; “whit dreams o bidin in London”, and so on. “Tonguit” means “tongued” and is pronounced “tongue it”: the poem never loses sight of its performance. In a number of works, Giles transforms found texts – from a “sampling of every mention of death” in Game of Thrones to an adaptation of a speech by David Cameron. This is an unusually adventurous and promising collection.

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