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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 October 2005, 11:16 GMT 12:16 UK
Crime writer scoops poetry prize
David Harsent. Photograph: Simon Harsent
Legion is the ninth collection by Devon-born Harsent
A poet who publishes crime novels has won the UK's most valuable poetry prize, worth 10,000.

David Harsent, 62, won the Forward Prize for Best Collection for Legion, which the judges called "exceptional".

Harsent, who was previously shortlisted in 2002, writes the Detective Sergeant Stella Mooney crime fiction series under the pseudonym David Lawrence.

Helen Farish won the best first collection award while Paul Farley took the best single poem prize.

The awards were announced on Thursday as part of National Poetry Day.

Harsent, who lives in London, has also written two librettos for modern composer Sir Harrison Birtwistle.

Technical accomplishment

One of them, entitled Gawain, premiered at the Royal Opera House in 1991 while the other, The Woman and the Hare, was nominated for a US Grammy award.

Tim Dee, chairman of the judging panel and a chief producer for BBC Radio, said Legion was "technically one of the most accomplished poetry books of recent years".

He said it featured "an intensely moving sequence that looks without prurience at the countless horrors of war we choose to forget".

Farish, 42, who teaches at Sheffield Hallam University, won the 5,000 Felix Dennis Prize for the best debut collection, for Intimates.

Farley, 45, a lecturer at Lancaster University, took the 1,000 Forward Prize for the best single poem for his work Liverpool Disappears for a Billionth of a Second.

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