Danez Smith has won the Forward Prize for Best Collection, the most coveted award in British poetry.
The 29-year-old American is the youngest ever winner of the £10,000 prize, joining the illustrious ranks of past winners including Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes and Carol Ann Duffy.
Smith’s winning book, Don’t Call Us Dead, was inspired by the author’s experience of living with HIV, and offers a powerful criticism of police brutality in the United States.
It was chosen as a Telegraph poetry book of the month in January, in a review which said: “This material is necessarily bleak, but Smith’s mercurial invention means it’s never merely grim.”
Bidisha Mamata, chair of the judging panel, said: “The tight lyrical poems in Don’t Call Us Dead feel utterly contemporary, and exciting.
“Smith’s finely crafted poetry makes us look anew at the intertwined natures of politics and sexuality and stands as a powerful warning: this is what ’s happening, be alert, pay attention.”