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Jorie Graham and Geoffrey Hill lead Forward prize shortlist


Frontrunners Graham and Hill join Beverley Bie Brahic, Barry Hill and Selima Hill on shortlist for the UK's top poetry award worth £10,000

Jorie Graham, one of the biggest names in American poetry, is set to go head to head on the Forward prize shortlist with the poet often described as the English language's greatest, Geoffrey Hill.

Worth £10,000 to its winner, the Forward prize for the best poetry collection is one of the UK's top poetry awards, won in the past by Don Paterson, Seamus Heaney, Carol Ann Duffy and Ted Hughes. Although Hill, who currently holds the post of Oxford professor of poetry, has won a range of poetry prizes he has yet to take the Forward. Neither has the Pulitzer-winning Graham, who is described by the Poetry Foundation as "perhaps the most celebrated poet of the American post-war generation".

Judges chaired by the poet Leonie Rushforth shortlisted Graham for Place, which opens with a poem dated June 5th, placed on Omaha Beach in Normandy, and is made up of "meditations written in a uneasy lull before an unknowable, potentially drastic change". Hill was picked for Odi Barbare, the second volume of The Daybooks sequence, in which he uses the Sapphic verse form to address "this dying / Time that bends so beautifully around things".

"Place is a lovely, lovely collection," said Rushforth. "Graham is somebody we all think very highly of, and we felt she was not very widely read in this country. Place is a very good place to start – she's seen as a challenging poet and this is a challenging collection, but perhaps less so than her other ones."

Rushforth said that in coming up with the shortlist, which also features the Australian poet Barry Hill's collection Naked Clay, inspired by the paintings of Lucian Freud, Canadian poet and translator Beverley Bie Brahic's White Sheets and British poet Selima Hill's People Who Like Meatballs, she and her judges read over 150

collections. "We had a long discussion. We obviously had to lose many things but all of us stand behind our shortlist," she said. "The lists we have agreed reflect the wonderful range of poetries being written in English today and we are looking forward to finding the winners from them ... All the collections we have chosen are very, very distinct from each other."

Rushforth is joined on the judging panel by the poets Ian McMillan and Alice Oswald and the literary critics Emma Hogan and Megan Walsh. The shortlists for the £5,000 Forward prize for best first collection, and for the £1,000 award for the best single poem, were also announced today, with Lucy Hamilton's prose poems in Stalker vying for the best first collection prize with Rhian Edwards and Jacob Sam-La Rose, both praised for bridging the gap between "page" and "performance".

Denise Riley, writing about the death of her son in 2008 in her first poem for 12 years, makes the final lineup for best single poem, alongside Michael Longley's reflection on his dying father's response to his first published poem, that it was "not worth the paper it's printed on", and a fugue by the New York poet Marilyn Hacker.

The winners will be announced on 3 October.

The Forward prize for Best Collection

White Sheets by Beverley Bie Brahic (CB Editions)

Place by Jorie Graham (Carcanet Press)

Naked Clay: Drawing from Lucian Freud by Barry Hill (Shearsman Books)

Odi Barbare by Geoffrey Hill (Clutag Press)

People Who Like Meatballs by Selima Hill (Bloodaxe Books)

The Felix Dennis prize for Best First Collection

The Twelve-Foot Neon Woman by Loretta Collins Klobah (Peepal Tree Press)

Clueless Dogs by Rhian Edwards (Seren)

Stalker by Lucy Hamilton (Shearsman Books)

81 Austerities by Sam Riviere (Faber and Faber)

Breaking Silence by Jacob Sam-La Rose (Bloodaxe Books)

The Forward prize for Best Single Poem in memory of Michael Donaghy

Deep Sea Diver by Greta Stoddart (Magma Poetry)

A Part Song by Denise Riley (London Review of Books)

Marigolds, 1960 by Michael Longley (London Review of Books)

Mea Culpa: Cleaning the Gutters by John Kinsella (The Warwick Review)

Fugue on a line of Amr bin M'ad Yakrib by Marilyn Hacker (The Wolf Magazine)

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