In the past few days, this year's Forward Prize shortlists have been announced. Here they are in full:
Jamie McKendrick - Crocodiles & Obelisks (Faber)
Sujata Bhatt - Pure Lizard (Carcanet)
Mick Imlah - The Lost Leader (Faber)
Jane Griffiths- Another Country (Bloodaxe)
Jen Hadfield - Nigh-No-Place (Bloodaxe)
Catherine Smith - Lip (Smith Doorstop)
Simon Barraclough - Los Alamos Mon Amour (Salt)
Andrew Forster - Fear of Thunder (Flambard)
Frances Leviston - Public Dream (Picador)
Allison McVety - The Night Trotsky Came to Stay (Smith Doorstop)
Stephanie Norgate - Hidden River (Bloodaxe)
Kathryn Simmonds - Sunday at the Skin Launderette (Seren)
Seamus Heaney - "Cutaways"
Christopher Buehlman - "Wanton"
Catherine Ormell - "Campaign Desk, December 1812"
Don Paterson - "Love Poem for Natalie 'Tusja' Beridze"
Kate Rhodes - "Wells-next-the-Sea"
Tim Turnbull - "Ode on a Grayson Perry Urn"
It would be idle for me to comment on the quality of the choices because, as usual, I've read hardly any of books on the shortlists. (The only one I have read is Hadfield's, which is strong, inventive and fresh.) However, I can see it's another good year for the small presses, especially on the first collection list. I'm glad to see Salt there for the third year running (not that I have any vested interest, you understand!) even if it's with fewer titles than last year. Simon Barraclough's book is being talked about as a strong contender, though Frances Leviston's seems to be considered the frontrunner. It's also a pleasure to see and acquaintance, Andrew Forster, appear on the list.
Cape is conspicuous by its absence in either of the collection categories. A shame there are no Salt titles on the shortlist for the main prize. If I remember rightly, Luke Kennard's The Harbour Beyond the Movie was the only book on last year's main list from a press outside the Mighty Handful; the pattern is repeated this year with Catherine Smith's collection in that position.
Of course, next year I might not be quite so dispassionate about the whole thing ...