The Forward Prize for Poetry shortlist has been announced, always an exciting time in the bookshop, as it gives us a chance to wheel out our literary tipster 'Lucky Jim', who for the rest of the year is kept frozen in carbonite under the staircase. 'Hom, hom' he said, stamping his feet to get the circulation going again, 'who's on the list this year, eh?'
Well, Jim, it's a particularly lively year for vintage Irish poets: new collections from Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Paul Muldoon and Ciaran Carson are all on the list, which is rounded out by Claudia Rankine's Citizen, an innovative prose-poetry investigation into American racism and microagressions, and Peter Riley's Due North, a blend of landscape, historical lyric and blazing human connection. As for the Best First Collection prize, Mona Arshi gets Liverpool University Press's new poetry imprint off to a good start with a nomination for her Small Hands, there's Karen McCarthy Woolf's wonderful collection An Aviary of Small Birds, Sarah Howe's Loop of Jade (our favourite collection published so far this year, debut or not), Andrew McMillan's hotly-awaited Physical, and Matthew Siegel's Blood Work from CB Editions (which we haven't got round to reading yet, but a customer was raving about it the day before yesterday).
Two great lists, giving a sense of the breadth and diversity of UK poetry at the moment; it's wonderful to see smaller presses getting the representation they deserve. Our guesses are Rankine for the best collection, and McMillan for the best debut - what d'you reckon, Jim, you're the tipster - Jim? .... Jim?
But Jim was gone, high-tailing it out of the window and over the cornfields. Somewhere a sparrow whistled. I was once again alone. I ran my thumb carelessly along the spine of the Muldoon, and thought of something else and then something else again.