Tishani Doshi & Selima Hill on Forward Prize Best Collection shortlist

Tishani Doshi & Selima Hill on Forward Prize Best Collection shortlist



Two Bloodaxe titles are on the five-strong shortlist for the Forward Prize for Best Collection 2021, which was announced on 8 June.

Poet, novelist and dancer Tishani Doshi's fourth collection A God at the Door and Selima Hill's twentieth collection Men Who Feed Pigeons (published 16 September) have been shortlisted for the £10,000 award, alongside collections by Kayo Chingonyi, Luke Kennard and Stephen Sexton.

The Forward Prize Foundation said of the two Bloodaxe collections:

A God at the Door by Tishani Doshi is a collection for this moment in history that bestows power on the powerless and employs beauty to overcome trauma.’

Men Who Feed Pigeons by Selima Hill brings together seven contrasting but complementary sequences about men and different kinds of women’s relationships with men, combining startling humour and uncomfortable truths with skilfully hewn brevity.’


James Naughtie, The chair of the 2021 Forward Prizes jury, commented:

‘We know that the year – and more – of the pandemic was also the year of reading. And that means poetry as well as prose. It was a time when everyone was reminded how much we need to be exposed to the power of the imagination. And the short lists for the Forward Prizes 2021 are a reminder that the poetic imagination isn’t wholly introspective, although it cuts deep. It’s bold, limitless in ambition and it touches every part of our lives – our own hopes and fears, our communities, and the wider world that so often seems bewildering and over-powering. These poets find pathways into the deepest feelings and discover vantage points that take a reader (or a listener) to another place. In their hands we look at the world differently. This is a moment for poetry; and all these poets deliver. Read them, and take off.’ 


Broadcaster, journalist and writer James Naughtie, chairs the judging panel. He is joined by poets Leontia Flynn, Pascale Petit and Shivanee Ramlochan and by poetry critic Tristram Fane Saunders.

Full details of the shortlists in all three Forward Prize categories can be seen on the Forward Prizes for Poetry website here.

Tishani Doshi In Conversation with the Forward Prize Foundation can be read here.  Her shaped poem 'Mandala' is here.

Selima Hill's conversation with the Forward Prize Foundation is here.  Her poem 'The Beautiful Man Whose Name I Can't Pronounce' can be read here.

The winners of the three Forward Prize categories will be announced at a ceremony in October.  Details to be announced in due course.

Articles on the Forward Prize shortlists are in The Bookseller here (leading with Bloodaxe) and in The Guardian here.


The winners will be announced at a ceremony at London's Southbank Centre on 24 October - in person and live-streamed event.

The Forward Prizes for Poetry Ceremony, Sun 24 Oct, 7pm, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, London

Join James Naughtie, broadcaster and jury chair, as he hosts the presentation of the UK and Ireland’s most coveted poetry prizes.

All of the shortlisted poets have been invited to read on the night. They are: Kayo Chingonyi, Tishani Doshi, Selima Hill, Luke Kennard and Stephen Sexton, for Best Collection; Caleb Femi, alice hiller, Cynthia Miller, Holly Pester and Ralf Webb, for Best First Collection; and Fiona Benson, Natalie Linh Bolderstone, John McCullough, Denise Riley and Nicole Sealey, for Best Single Poem.

In-person bookings here.  Tickets £15

The ceremony will also be streamed live. Tickets £7.50.  Book here.


Tishani Doshi's A God at the Door follows two previous collections with Bloodaxe. Her third collection Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation for Summer 2018. It followed on from Everything Begins Elsewhere, published by Bloodaxe in 2012, and her debut, Countries of the Body, winner of the Forward Prize for best first collection.  Tishani is of Welsh/Gujarati descent (her third collection was dedicated to her Welsh mother) and she lives on a beach in Tamil Nadu, Southern India.

Selima Hill's Men Who Feed Pigeons brings together seven contrasting but complementary poem sequences by ‘this brilliant lyricist of human darkness’ (Fiona Sampson) relating to men and different kinds of women’s relationships with men. Her previous collection I May Be Stupid But I'm Not That Stupid has six poem sequences relating to family, fear, foreboding and felicity.  Selima Hill grew up in a family of painters in farms in England and Wales, and has lived in Dorset for the past 40 years. Her 2008 Bloodaxe retrospective Gloria: Selected Poems was followed by eight further collections.  Her 20th collection Men Who Feed Pigeons is published by Bloodaxe on 16 September.


Selima Hill gave a very rare interview to The Poetry Review Podcast in April 2021. She read a number of poems from her forthcoming collection Men Who Feed Pigeons and was in conversation with Emily Berry, editor of The Poetry Review.  Listen to this delightful conversation here.


Links to interviews with Tishani Doshi, along with reviews and poem features for A God at the Door, are on our news page here.


Tishani Doshi was filmed for Notting Hill's Coronet Theatre's Coronet Inside Out series.  She recorded a number of poems from A God at the Door from Kodaikanal, a hill station in Tamil Nadu. She introduced the reading by saying:

‘What I love about the Coronet is its sense of intimacy and other-worldliness. When you pass through the doors — whether it’s into the bar or to the theatre, there’s a sense of crossing over a threshold and entering into a different space – where you are connected with strangers, where transformations can happen. Most of the poems in my fourth collection, A God at the Door (Bloodaxe), have to do with this idea of connection and intimacy. For me the two touchstones are language and the body, the idea that any pilgrimage must lead back to ourselves, our bodies, but that we are in this together. Poems are bridges, they can connect our personal losses to public grief, they can also offer glimpses of beauty, humour & hope.’ – Tishani Doshi


[08 June 2021]

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