Luke Kennard has won a top poetry accolade for his ‘joyously unclassifiable’ collection Notes on the Sonnets, which recasts Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets as a series of anarchic prose poems set in the same joyless house party.
The Forward Prizes for Poetry are considered the most influential awards for new poetry in the UK and Ireland, and 2021 marks the prize’s 30th year. Notes on the Sonnets is the first Penned in the Margins title to win a Forward Prize, and one of a handful in the awards’ history to have been published by a publisher outside poetry’s ‘big five’.
On receiving the award at the ceremony on Sunday 24 October at London’s Southbank Centre, a visibly emotional Kennard told the audience, ‘This feels really very strange and I’m extremely grateful and thank you so much to the judges for liking this weird book.’
He also thanked Tom Chivers, his editor at Penned in the Margins, who said, ‘I was stunned and ecstatic that Luke Kennard won this year’s Forward – one of British poetry’s major accolades – and am excited that it will be read by even more people now. Notes on the Sonnets is everything that is brilliant about Luke’s work. It’s smart, weird, risk-taking, totally unique and very funny. And – I know it’s a cliche – this couldn’t happen to a lovelier man. Well done, Luke.’
Photographed above with fellow shortlisted poets Stephen Sexton and Kayo Chingonyi.