A book described by one critic as eavesdropping “on America and a racism that has never gone away” has won the top award at the 2015 Forward prizes for poetry.
Claudia Rankine has already won the National Book Critics Circle award in the US for Citizen: An American Lyric. On Monday night at a ceremony in London she was named winner of the Forward prize for best collection.
Rankine, who was born in Jamaica and now lives in California, teaching at the University of Southern California, wins £10,000.
Two other winners at the awards, now in their 24th year, were Mona Arshi, who won the £5,000 Felix Dennis prize for best first collection, and Clare Harman, who won the £1,000 prize for best single poem.
The Forward Prize for Best Collection (£10,000)
The Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection (£5,000)
The Forward Prize for Best Single Poem (£1,000)
The winner of the 2015 Forward Prize for the Best Poetry Collection is Jamaica-born Claudia Rankine for Citizen: An American Lyric, described by the jury as a “powerful book for our time”. AL Kennedy, chair of the five-strong jury, said: “This is writing we can recommend with real urgency and joy. It’s a stylistically daring poetic project about the dehumanization of those deemed outsiders – we found it exhilarating and genuinely transformative.”
“Citizen is a brave book, with many dimensions: it takes risks, gives courage and provokes profound self-questioning. We read it as a celebration of the power of language, not simply as a call to arms but a call to speak out and to share. Several of us have, individually, pressed this book on others with real fervour. It will, we know, raise questions about the nature, purpose and importance of poetry.
Citizen: An American Lyric (Penguin Books) is published as poetry and has also been described as a “lyric essay”, a creative non-fiction genre combining the essay form with poetic technique, using juxtaposition instead of argument or narrative. The book features extracts from documentary film scripts, an essay on Venus Williams, screen grabs of Zinedine Zidane’s 2006 World Cup head-butt, President Obama’s oath of office, JMW Turner’s painting The Slave Ship and witness testimony to acts of everyday racism.