Ahead of this year’s Forward Prizes for Poetry, The Telegraph is publishing all five nominees for the Best Single Poem prize. Today’s poem comes from Sumita Chakraborty. Born in New York, she now teaches at Emory University, Georgia. Working regularly with young writers who are just “starting out”, she says, “motivates me to try new things – to always be starting out on something… I hope that people starting out in poetry might realize that they are not alone in the sensation of ‘starting out,’ and that there is much to value and love in it.”

The title of her shortlisted poem, “A death demands a labor”, is taken from a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke, one of her favourite writers. Chakraborty has…