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Queen's lecturer wins prestigious Forward Prize for Poetry

Dr Stephen Sexton, a Lecturer in Queen's School of Arts, English and Languages, has won the prestigious Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection.

Photograph by Michael Weir

The Forward Prizes are the leading awards for poetry published in the UK and Ireland, honouring debut collections alongside the work of eminent names and celebrating the year's best new poetry with high profile live readings at the Southbank Centre every autumn. Notable alumni include Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, Claudia Rankine, Simon Armitage, Jackie Kay, Carol Ann Duffy and Daljit Nagra.

Stephen Sexton, who teaches in Queen's Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry, won the £5,000 Felix Dennis Prize for best first collection for If All the World and Love Were Young (Penguin), which explores memories of his mother's death through the lens of a beloved childhood video game.

Commenting on the award, Stephen said: "It's a remarkable honour to have my work recognised in this way. This book was part of my Creative Writing PhD thesis which I completed at the Seamus Heaney Centre first under the supervision of our beloved Ciaran Carson and then Sinéad Morissey and Gail McConnell. I'm grateful for their guidance and expertise as well as the advice and friendship of many others at the Heaney Centre. I hope they too can share in this good news."

The prize was presented at a ceremony at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on 20 October 2019 – awarded live on stage by writer and broadcaster Shahidha Bari, who chaired the judging panel of poets Tara Bergin, Andrew McMillan and Carol Rumens alongside Jamie Andrews, Head of Culture and Learning at the British Library.

Stephen's first pamphlet, Oils (Emma Press), was a Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice and he won an Eric Gregory Award in 2018.