The Forward Prizes were awarded last Wednesday evening. All of us at Magma were delighted that Julia Copus won the £1000 award for Best Poem for An Easy Passage, which was published in Magma 45, edited by Clare Pollard. Laurie Smith, who attended the awards ceremony on Magma’s behalf, reports:
The occasion was packed out with poets and publishers. The chair of the judges, Ruth Padel, spoke warmly about each of the shortlisted poets before announcing the winner (there are no runners-up). Julia went up and read her poem very effectively and the audience clearly found it moving.
It’s the second time a poem from Magma has been nominated for this award (Tim Turnbull’s Ode to a Grayson Perry Urn, published in Magma 38, was shortlisted in 2008), but this is our first winner. Congratulations to Julia. It’s an excellent poem we are proud to have published.
Julia Bird, Magma board member and editor of issue 49, was also at the ceremony and sent me this eyewitness report:
‘Well, if he’s not here, it means he hasn’t won. Definitely.’ Seasoned prize party attenders at the Forward Prize do in Somerset House on Wednesday deduced that because Seamus Heaney was not present, his collection ‘Human Chain’ had not won the best collection prize for which it was shortlisted. It doesn’t do to presume. The poet himself was out of the country, but his book of course did win – a a book that Chair of the judging panel Ruth Padel described as ‘a collection of painful, honest, and delicately weighted poems’, and ‘a wonderful and humane achievement’. Reverent applause and reddened faces all round.
Hilary Menos’ ‘Berg’ took the best first collection award, and she let her husband share the limelight in her acceptance speech, reciting his pithy and profane companion poem which he’d composed in the car on the way to London. ‘Titanic’, he’d called it.
But we think it was Julia Copus who won the biggest prize of the night!
We would, of course, but congratulations to all the winners. Seamus Heaney, after a lifetime of winning awards, has finally won the Forward Prize for the first time, so victory must have felt especially good.