dangerous, risk-taking liberating and wildly ambitious”~ Tom Chivers, Penned in the Margins

Ledbury Poetry Festival announces the six collections shortlisted for the prestigious Ledbury Forte Poetry Prize for Second Collections published in Britain and Ireland in 2017 and 2018.

Judged this year by Lachlan Mackinnon and Linda Gregerson, the biannual prize is the first of its kind and aims to support and encourage ‘mid-career’ poets, with a £5,000 prize for the winner. The vibrant, diverse collections offer a reminder that in turbulent political times poetry – particularly those published by independent and small presses – continues to thrive and flourish.

The prize recognises that a poet’s second collection can be “dangerous, risk-taking liberating and wildly ambitious” according to Tom Chivers, Editor at Penned in the Margins, who says “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.”

The shortlisted poets will be invited to read at a Prize Giving event on Friday 5 July 2019 at Ledbury Poetry Festival when the judges, Lachlan Mackinnon and Linda Gregerson will announce the winner. In selecting the judges, Ledbury Poetry Festival consciously sought out poets who are not regularly judging prizes in the UK, in order to try to widen the spotlight and shine a light on poets whose collections might otherwise not receive their due in terms of attention and recognition. The result is a diverse and vibrant shortlist of poets who have not yet been picked out yet by major prizes.


  • A K Blakemore Fondue (Offord Road Books)
  • Adam O’Riordan A Herring Famine (Chatto)
  • Danez Smith Don’t Call Us Dead (Chatto)
  • David Tait The AQI (Smith Doorstop)
  • Rory Waterman Sarajevo Roses (Carcanet)
  • James Womack On Trust: A Book of Lies (Carcanet)

A K Blakemore

Adam O’Riordan

Danez Smith

David Tait

Rory Waterman

James Womack