London (The Telegraph, Sept 24,2017): A gay Vietnam-born writer who spent a year in a refugee camp before moving the United States at two years old has won Britain’s most important prize for new poets.
Ocean Vuong, 28, received a £5,000 award for his book Night Sky With Exit Wounds at tonight’s Forward Prizes, the annual awards which have been dubbed the “poetry Oscars”.
Vuong was awarded the Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection, an accolade previously won by writers including Simon Armitage and Don Paterson.
Andrew Marr, head of the judging panel, praised the Vietnamese-American as “a truly remarkable new voice”. He said: “This exciting poet navigates different terrains, from personal traumas to history and mythology, with great skill and imagination. Formally daring, and rich in images, Night Sky with Exit Wounds is an incredibly accomplished first collection by an extraordinary talent.”
Vuong was one of three winners in a glitzy award ceremony at London’s Royal Festival Hall. Irish poet Sinéad Morrissey won the £10,000 prize for Best Collection for her sixth book, On Balance, a collection which builds on her talent for depicting well-known historical events an unexpected vantage-point. The book includes poems about the launch of the Titanic, the Beatles’ visit to Nottingham, and the bones of Napoleon’s horse – a “portal, time machine, skeleton key/ to what cannot be imagined”.