Speaking for Ourselves

Migrant poets shortlisted for prize

Migrant poets shortlisted for prize

Kianna Bowers

 Migrant Voice -
 Migrant Voice - Migrant poets shortlisted for prize

On Monday the 13th of June, writer Malika Booker announced the shortlist for the £15,000 Forward Prize for best poetry collection. Amongst those shortlisted were Kurdish writer Choman Hardi and Trinidadian writer Vahni Capildeo.

In 1993, Hardi arrived in the UK seeking asylum. Now, Hardi uses her poetry to discuss survivors of genocide, drawing from her post-doctoral research in the area. Her work centers around the stories of survivors of the Anfal campaign in the 1980’s. “You do not die! Not when you want to,” she writes in her poem Dibs Camp, the Women’s Prison. “Not when your son withers in your lap / and he cries until he can no more, when the last thing / he asks of you is ‘cucumber’, and you give him / a green slipper to suckle on, because he is beyond // knowing the difference.”

Capildeo, author of Measures of Expatriation, has been in the UK since 1991. Her original style mixes prose and poetry to examine the alienation of the expatriate. Booker said Capildeo’s work is, “… definitely pushing boundaries…. It’s very dynamic.”

This year’s entries included many pieces on language and place. Booker said, On our shortlists you’ve got Greenlandic, Caribbean creole, Scots, Kurdish, in terms of the languages and the landscapes that people are pulling from. They’re also a showcase in the English language, and how it stretches and pulls in from other languages.”

William Sieghart, founder of the Forward prizes said, “maybe poetry is claiming its place as the genre of the age of migration: when your arms can’t carry anything, you can still carry a poem in your head.”

The judges said the shortlist marks “a breaking down of barriers” in poetry. Capildeo and Hardi’s works are no exception to this poetic “resurgence.”

For Further Reading and the Complete Shortlist: