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Trinidad's Vahni Capildeo Snags Top UK Poetry Prize

Vahni Capildeo becomes third Caribbean Writer to earn the Forward Prize

The Caribbean made a near complete sweep of the 25th year of the Forward Prizes. Trinidad and Tobago’s Vahni Capildeo took home the award for Best Collection for Measures of Expatriation (Carcanet) while Virgin Islander Tiphanie Yanique snagged the Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection for Wife (Peepal Tree Press).

Capildeo’s win made it the third year in a row that the UK’s most coveted prize for poetry has been won by a Caribbean writer. In 2014 Jamaican Kei Miller snagged the prize with The Cartographer Tries to Map the Way to Zion (Carcanet) and his coutrywoman Claudia Rankine repeated the feat in 2015 with Citizen (Penguin Books). The Best Collection award comes with a ₤15,000 purse

Chair of the 2016 panel of judges Malika Booker described Measures of Expatriation as a swan, “calm on top of the water, and underneath it is pedalling furiously, to create a new vocabulary in terms of the layout and language used, the lexicon it uses.” 

“[Capildeo] is trying to articulate something quite hard to pin down and isn’t afraid to boldly take risks in language and layout,” Booker said. “It is a book that no one else could have written; it is her DNA, her stamp. Every time you open that book, you’ll find something peculiar, something exhilarating, something new, something exquisitely crafted.”

Tiphanie Yanique wins Best First Collection

With her win of the Felix Dennis Prize and the attendant ₤5,000 award, Yanique becomes the second Caribbean writer to snag that award following in the footsteps of poet, novelist and playwright Kwame Dawes who won the prize for his debut collection Progeny of Air in 1994. 

Booker described Yanique’s collection as complex, bold and witty and the titular poem as a tour de force.

Sasha Dugdale was the night’s third winner taking home the prize for Best Single Poem with ‘Joy’ (₤1,000) which appeared in the PN Review.

Along with Booker, 2016 judging panel comprised poets Liz Berry and George Szirtes as well as singer/songwriter Tracey Thorn and editor Don Share (Poetry Magazine).

The 2016 Forward Prizes were awarded at a ceremony at the Royal Festival Hall on 20 September 2016.