We submitted our three nominations for 2022’s Forward Prize Best Single Poem last week and what better day to announce these on than World Poetry Day. Please join us in congratulating Celestine Stilwell, Elizabeth Sennitt Clough and L Kiew and revisit their poems below. We wish them the very best of luck.

As an added bonus we are (or soon will be) featuring audio recordings of their submitted poems by the poets themselves.



Celestine Stilwell

Little boy dream 

My brother used to burn ants with a magnifying glass.
I blamed the sun for tempting his half-talking, grazed
knees to kneel on hot tarmac. He’d run his
pink-licked fingers through the slab’s trenches, collecting
worm eggs beneath thumb-nails.
Once they were out and open,
a four-year-old angles the sun.

On hot days like this, his thin skin would
glaze like baked egg-wash. Big hands to bathe scabbed knees
in holy water, and he’d dream that the ants’ bodies
were washed back to trenches by mourning.



Celestine Stilwell (he/they) is a transgender poet and visual artist based in Durham, who has previously won the Langaland Spoken Word Competition 2019, and the John Gurney Creative Writing Award 2019.




Elisabeth Sennitt Clough

everyone’s version of heaven is different

i’ve given up self-medicating
with fluffy toy dogs
and texts from sermonising men
who tell me the average person speaks
eleven million words a year
there isn’t really an average though
it’s their way of saying give me some
or three of your eleven million

just think by the time we reach our forties
the world’s got a couple of decades of xanax behind it
slumped in the corner with its hands over its ears
the world’s like any parent at the end of a village-hall party
burping up funfetti cupcakes
it’s not the world’s fault we all do it
trying to recapture sweet encounters
alice’s still smooshing cake into phoebe’s hair
and jj’s throwing wet toilet roll against the wall

all i truly want is the snake calling
to offer me his version of paradise
with fake white sand
a couple of scratchy loungers
and those big red apples on the breakfast bar
not a hint of flavour in them
but how they make me want to eat and eat



Elisabeth Sennitt Clough is the author of Glass (Saboteur Best Pamphlet Award), Sightings (Michael Schmidt Award), At or Below Sea Level (PBS Recommendation) and ‘The Cold Store’, forthcoming 2021. Her poems appear in The Forward Book of Poetry 2018, The Rialto, Poem, Mslexia, Wasafiri, Magma, The Cannon’s Mouth and Stand among others. Elisabeth is editor of the Fenland Poetry Journal. @FenlandJ. www.elisabethsennittclough.co.uk @LizSennitt




L Kiew



L Kiew is a Chinese-Malaysian based in London, and works as a charity sector leader and accountant. Her debut pamphlet The Unquiet was published by Offord Road Books (2019). She was a 2019/2020 London Library Emerging Writer.