LONDON – American performance poet Danez Smith has won the prestigious Forward Prize for the collection “Don’t Call Us Dead.”
At 29, the poet from St. Paul, Minnesota is the youngest-ever winner of the 10,000 pound ($13,000) award, founded in 1992.
Smith, who uses the gender-neutral pronoun “they,” was praised for “jubilant and confrontational” verses reflecting their experiences as a young, HIV-positive African American.
British writer Bidisha, who chaired the judging panel, said Tuesday that Smith’s poetry “makes us look anew at the intertwined natures of politics and sexuality and stands as a powerful warning: this is what’s happening, be alert, pay attention.”
The Forward Prize for best first collection went to Phoebe Power’s “Shrines of Upper Austria.” Liz Berry’s “The Republic of Motherhood” was named best single poem.