Somali-British poet Momtaza Mehri has won the 2023 Forward Prize for Poetry in the category “Best First Collection”. Her debut poetry collection Bad Diaspora Poems was released this July.
The Forward Prizes for Poetry are annual awards for new poetry published in the UK and Ireland. Run by the Forward Arts Foundation since 1992, the prizes are sponsored by Bookmark Content and have recognized many celebrated literary names over the past three decades such as Claudia Rankine, Caleb Femi, and more.
Bernardine Evaristo was the chair for the Best Collections panel and joined by judges Kate Fox, Karen McCarthy Woolf, Andrés N. Ordórica, and Jessica Traynor. Evaristo praised Mehri’s superb collection, saying:
An exceptional debut collection that reinvigorates ideas around diaspora, migration and home. Wide-ranging and ambitious, her poetry shimmers with erudition and linguistic exquisiteness, while also having an emotional heart. Drawing on global cultures, Mehri is a truly transnational poet of the twenty-first century whose words pulsate out into the world-at-large.
Mehri’s winning poetry collection discusses diaspora poetry, taking us from Mogadishu to Naples, Lampedusa to London. Blending her own family’s experience with the stories of many others across nineteenth- and twentieth-century Somalia, Mehri confronts the ambivalent nature of speaking for people who have been left behind from their original homelands.
Somali-British poet Momtaza Mehri is a former Young People’s Poet Laureate for London and Frontier-Antioch Fellow at Antioch University in Los Angeles. Her writing has appeared in POETRY, Granta, Artforum, Bomb Magazine, the Guardian, Real Life Mag, and the White Review. She has won the 2019 Manchester Writing Prize and has completed residencies at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the British Library.
Congrats to Mehri!