Jorie Graham has the distinction of being the first American woman to win the Forward Prize for Poetry. Her book P L A C E was awarded Best Collection, a prize that was last awarded to a woman in 2004.
P L A C E "explores the ways in which our imagination, intuition, and experience - increasingly devalued by a culture that regards them as 'mere' subjectivity - aid us in navigating a world moving blindly towards its own annihilation and a political reality where the human person and its dignity are increasingly disposable." It is Graham's twelfth collection of poetry.
Judges described the collection as "startling, powerful, never predictable" and a "joy" to read. Leonie Rushforth, Chair of the judging panel, said that Graham's collection was a "happy unanimous choice for the judges."
"It is a challenging collection of unusual force and originality, forging connections between inner experience and a world in crisis," Rushforth said.
This is not the first time that Graham has broken through a glass ceiling. In 1998 she replaced Seamus Heaney as Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard University. This appointment followed Graham's Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1996 for The Dream of the Unifired Field: Selected Poems 1974-1994. The U.S. Poetry Foundation has said that Graham is "perhaps the most celebrated poet of the American post-war generation."
The Forward Prizes were established by William Sieghart in 1991 to reward both established and up-and-coming poets. Each year The Forward Book of Poetry, an anthology of poems from the year's shortlists as well as highly commended submissions, is published. The 2013 edition was released yesterday.