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Thursday, 1 August, 2002, 10:44 GMT 11:44 UK
Poetry judge resigns amid 'bias' row
Rosie Millard
Rosie Millard is one of two female judges
Michael Donaghy has stepped down from his position as head of the panel of judges for the Forward Poetry Prize amid accusations of bias.

Mr Donaghy, 2000's winner of the top best collection prize, announced his resignation this week after publisher Neil Astley claimed the award propped up an elite literary clique.


"If you look at the prizes over the years, you will see there is not a bias toward any publishers

William Sieghart, Prize founder
The main annual prize of 10,000 honours contemporary poetry from established poets and new writers.

Mr Astley, head of Bloodaxe Books, said his objections were based on the fact that each year's winner went on to be a judge for the next.

He also said there was a predominance of writers published by Picador among the judges, who also seemed to overlook female writers.

Mr Donaghy - who is a Picador poet - denied Mr Astley's accusations, and said he considered it best to go "to get all notions of bias out of way", according to a spokeswoman.

Mr Donaghy will be replaced by William Sieghart, the founder of the prize 11 years ago, as the judges look to naming 2002's winner on 9 October.

Shortlist

Mr Sieghart described Mr Astley's accusations as "absurd", saying the prize had always aimed for "balance" and a "mix of genders on the panel".

"If you look at the prizes over the years, you will see there is not a bias toward any publishers, although publishers such as Bloodaxe - who solely publish poetry have featured heavily on the shortlists and been highly commended," he added.

Bloodaxe, based in Tarset, Northumberland, is one of the UK's main publishers of poetry books.

Mr Astley founded the firm in 1978 and has edited and published several poetry anthologies.

Among the five shortlisted authors for this year's Forward best collection prize, Vona Groarke, writer of Flight on Gallery Books, is the only woman.

The other contenders include Picador's Paul Farley for The Ice Age and John Fuller's Now and For a Time, published by Chatto and Windus.

David Harsent and Peter Porter complete the list.

Leafed

The judges for the 2002 awards include BBC arts correspondent Rosie Millard, Times Literary Supplement editor Peter Stothard and 2001 Forward Prize winner and Picador poet Sean O'Brien.

The judges leafed through 105 collections of poetry published in the UK and the Republic of Ireland in the past year.

Other Forward prizes also awarded at the same time as the main poetry prize include 5,000 for the best first collection.

There is also an award of 1,000 for the best single poem.

See also:

08 Jul 02 | Entertainment
10 Oct 98 | Entertainment
07 Oct 99 | Entertainment
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