Ledbury Poetry Festival is launching a new poetry prize for second collections, to be given every two years and called the Ledbury Forte Poetry Prize worth £5000. The prize is for a second collection published in the previous two years. A shortlist of six books will be announced in June 2017 and published on the website. The winner will be announced at the 21st Ledbury Poetry Festival in July at a reading given by the winning poet and this year’s two main poet judges, Vahni Capildeo and Tara Bergin.
Tom Chivers, Editor at Penned in the Margins, says “Why must a poet’s ‘difficult second album’ be difficult? No: it can be dangerous, risk-taking, liberating and wildly ambitious. I welcome a new prize for second collections, to shine a spotlight on work that might otherwise fall down the gap between the excitement of the new and the confidence of the established.”
Neil Astley, Bloodaxe Books Editor, presents the rationale behind this new Prize:
‘It seems for some time that there’s rather too much focus now on first collections — and there are half a dozen prizes for first collections awarded in Britain and Ireland — or on “best collections” of the year (another half dozen prizes for those also), and that the one area given very little recognition and little appreciation of the struggles involved is the second collection, and poetry’s version of the “difficult second album” syndrome.
Poets who’ve made a splash with their debut collections are under pressure to produce a follow-up collection which builds on the achievement of the first, and yet when they do produce a much stronger second book, it very often gets much less attention and even sells fewer copies, even though it’s the better book. Or they may have said their piece in their debut book and the second collection is more or less a re-run of the first; and the publisher drops them when they submit the third collection MS a few years later, because their work hasn’t really gone anywhere. Second collections can be included on “best collection” prize shortlists, but rarely are. And if the poet is someone who has a job or other commitments, and hasn’t been able to assist much in promotion of their work, or do many readings, an excellent second collection may well be completely overlooked; and the discouragement that brings may affect where the poet goes from there.
So in order to create more interest in the “difficult second collection”, Ledbury Poetry Festival is launching this biennial second collection award, with a shortlist and a prize of £5000 for the winning second collection. At present there is funding to run the prize for six years (so three awards will be made, in 2017, 2019 and 2021, after which the Festival hope to raise more funding).’
Ledbury Poetry Festival gratefully acknowledges the generosity of Olga Polizzi whose contribution makes the Ledbury Forte Poetry Prize possible.