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Forward Prize for poetry goes to non-plagiarizing poet

October 02, 2013|By Carolyn Kellogg
  • Michael Symmons Roberts
Michael Symmons Roberts (Michael Symmons Roberts )

The Forward Prize for poetry was thrust into the news last month when a poet withdrew from consideration after it was revealed he had plagiarized some earlier work.

The British prize, worth more than $16,000, was presented Tuesday night to Michael Symmons Roberts for his collection "Drysalter." Each of the 150 poems in the collection is exactly 15 lines long; the title refers to an 18th-century store stocking poisons, powders, gums and drugs -- "with a nod, too, to the Psalter," as is noted on the prize's website.

Chair of the Forward judges Jeanette Winterson praised Symmons Roberts, saying, “We need to be able to talk of matters of faith and the soul, and how the soul intersects with the heart. What Symmons Roberts does is difficult but necessary now -- it addresses a fissure in the human psyche: how we deal with faith and with secularism, how we find a life.”

The prize got more attention than usual in September when it was discovered that another poet in the running, CJ Allen, had plagiarized earlier works. Allen withdrew from the competition.

The Guardian reported that "Winterson said she believed it had been a mistake for him to withdraw because the work was 'a strong poem, whatever may have gone on in other places and at other times.' She added: 'I'm really sorry about it, because it would have been a strong contender. I would have liked to have heard him read that poem tonight.'"


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