Poet Claudia Rankine was awarded a 2016 MacArthur “Genius” grant for her work that engages with contemporary American culture, particularly issues of race.
The MacArthur Foundation describes Rankine as “a poet illuminating the emotional and psychic tensions that mark the experiences of many living in twenty-first-century America. Over the course of five poetry collections, Rankine has adopted different forms of poetic expression that correspond to the trajectory of her concerns from the private to the public….In addition to her poetry, Rankine has become a critical voice in current conversations about racial violence through essays, lectures, and a co-created series of short films entitled Situations. Rankine is crafting critical texts that are proving to be essential for understanding American life while also enriching the craft of poetry with a new sense of agency and urgency.”
Trinidadian poet Vahni Capildeo has won the 2016 Forward prize for best poetry collection, making it three years in a row that a Caribbean poet has won one of the most prestigious poetry awards in the UK and Ireland.
The Forward Arts Foundation describes Capildeo’s poetry as “characterised by a kind of omnivorous, long-armed reach. Many-tongued and multi-cultural, her shortlisted collection Measures of Expatriation sweeps through long prose poems and short imagistic bursts, through surrealism and gritty realism, acutely seeking the right form for each individual thought.”
The Forward Prize judges have chosen Tiphanie Yanique’s Wife (Peepal Tree Press) as the winner of the UK’s top poetry prize for new poets – The Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection.
The Forward Arts Foundation notes that “Tiphanie Yanique (b. 1978, Virgin Islands) has long considered herself a writer, indeed, when asked in school for three words to describe herself, she ‘would say, “Caribbean, girl, writer.” Maybe not always in that order.’ Further, she notes how children ‘speak in metaphor, that they hunt down language as poets do, that they use their vocabulary limitations the way poets might use the limitations of poetic form – to find a way to say something anew.’ Wife, her debut collection, was begun in 2000, but became increasingly focused: the more recently written poems ‘are more clearly about the complexities of heterosexual marriage.’ It has already won the 2016 Bocas Poetry Prize.”
Yanique was taught by Claudia Rankine, winner of the 2015 Forward Prize.
Esther Phillips’ poetry collection Leaving Atlantis has won two 2016 awards. It earned a gold award in the professional category of the NIFCA Literary Competition in Barbados, as well as the Governor General’s Award for Excellence. Leaving Atlantis is a suite of poems that explores the unstable territory between public and private. They are addressed to the Barbadian novelist and thinker, George Lamming. Peepal Tree Press describes the collection as “More than a portrait, fascinating and intimate as it is, of a public man; more than an exploration of the writing of the man for clues about what he might be thinking (and an acceptance of the ultimate mystery and unknowability of the intimate other), this is a suite of poems about the miracle of love, and how it may come at any time.”
Trinidadian writer and artist Danielle Boodoo-Fortuné is the winner of the 2016 Wasafiri New Writing Prize for Poetry for her poem “Portrait of My Father as a Grouper.” The poem will be published in the Spring 2017 issue of the magazine.