Forward Thinking

betty and PB8
Betty and the mag

Tenacity isn’t usually one of my character traits. I’m more inclined to give up than get bloody minded about completing a task, particularly if effort requires a competitive slant and knives are drawn. Life’s too short and all that.


It’s just that sometimes. Sometimes. Sometimes, refusing to cave in under pressure can pay dividends (excuse me a moment while I refer to my cliché catalogue one more time).

What am I on about? Well, the Forward Prize, obviously.

Well, OK, not the whole deal, just me breathing the same air for a little while is all.

Editors of the Irish-based Lit Mag, Poetry Bus Magazine, Peadar and Collette, have nominated my poem ‘Origami Instructions for the Recently Bereaved’ in the single poem category of the Forward Poetry Prize.

I know it is early days – this is only a nomination before the drawing up of a shortlist to be published in May. Still.

But to get to this point, let me relate the story of how this poem achieved publication.

The words were not fuelled by my grief this time but were inspired by someone else’s. It’s a jolly verse about joy, happiness and fluffy bunnies – not! And publication nearly didn’t happen.

The magazine had an open submission window, so I sent an email with a couple of poems and waited.


No surprise really, it is not unusual to hear nothing from publishers.

Then, several weeks later, I saw a comment on social media (Twitter, actually) about how unlike many other Lit Mags, Poetry Bus usually respond to submissions within a week.

Really? Really? I fired off a message questioning the validity of such a claim. An exchange of messages ensued from which it transpired my original email had inexplicably gone into their Spam folder.

Long story short: by the end of that day, ‘Origami Instructions for the Recently Bereaved’ had been accepted for publication in the October issue of the magazine.

Fast forward to March 2020 and my poem is now one of a handful nominated by the Poetry Bus team for the single poem category of the Forward Prize.  Competition will be fierce – publishers from across Ireland and the UK will be putting forward their best recommendations. Last year’s shortlist included three of my favourite contemporary poets, Liz Berry, Mary Jean Chan and *Jonathan Edwards, so that’s how high the bar is set. And of course, Stephen Sexton won the Best First Collection Prize last year and Fiona Benson won the main Forward Prize for Best Collection. In the world of poetry, the Forward Prizes are a big deal!

Just for me to be in at this stage of the process is incredibly encouraging, another nod to the third-party validation I’m often heard banging on about.  So, I’m gushingly grateful to Peadar and Collete for putting my poem … Forward. Thank you!

Jonathan Edwards is shortlisted for the 2020 Strokestown Poetry Festival Poetry Competition and will be doing a poetry reading in Strokestown Park House at 9.30am (yes!) on Saturday, May 2nd. More details about this year’s Festival here.