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This anthology contains a selection of the best contemporary poetry published in Britain and Ireland in the past year, including the winning entries to the Forward Poetry Prizes. With an inroduction by Simon Armitage, chairman of this year's judges.
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At the beginning of every year the Forward Publishing company hosts the annual Forward Poetry prizes for the best poems, and poetry-collections, published in Britain in the preceding 12 months. At the end of the same year they then publish the winners, near-winners and a sample of the losers, in an annual Book of Poetry. This, the 2000 Book, is the seventh; the judges and editors of this year's edition include big- name poets like Simon Armitage and Pen elope Shuttle.
The best individual poems in the book are, unsurprisingly, to be found in the "Best Individual Poem" section. Caroline Carver's Carribean fisherman's shanty, "Horse Under Water", is a clever and evocative triumph: "an deteeth glitter in sunshine that come through the water...iiiiiiichin to biteme dead". Also good is Robert Crawford's "Zero", a satirical broadside at the nuclear power industry, and George Szirtes Backwaters, a lyrical paean to the Norfolk landscape. And R.S. Thomas's "Blackbird"--"Its eye a dark pool / in which Sirius glitters / and never goes out"--is a fine and inspiring new work from a truly great poet.
One of the attractions of a book like this is the chance it offers to argue with the editor and in this the Forward 2000 doesn't disappoint. It is debatable whether Kate Clanchy's Samarkand (Best Collection section) is a patch on her first book; if Matthew Caley's Colander Man (Best First Collection) is representative of his work it's difficult to see why he's here. That said, there's little argument with the other names that appear herein: Paul Muldoon, Jo Shapcott, and Carol Ann Duffy are some of the most talented verse-writers working in the UK. And the title of Peter Porter's "To My Grandaughters Sweeping Spelsbury Church" is a good enough reason in itself for buying this lively, accessible and very stimulating anthology. -- Sean Thomas
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