Poets dropped by publisher are on shortlist for major award

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The Independent Online
TWO OF the poets Oxford University Press dispensed with when it decided to stop publishing poetry last year have been shortlisted for the country's most prestigious prize for the genre.

Jo Shapcott and Jane Draycott - who were both on the Oxford University Press (OUP) list when it abandoned poetry publishing last November - have made it on to the shortlist of five for the pounds 10,000 Forward poetry prize. The shortlist is also notable for having only one male nominee. Paul Muldoon, recently named as the new Oxford professor of poetry, is shortlisted in the collections category along with Carol Anne Duffy and Kate Clanchy.

OUP's decision to withdraw from poetry, believing it was not commercial, caused uproar in the literary world. The decision left 35 poets without a publisher and provoked Alan Howarth, the Arts minister, to describe OUP's management as "barbarians". More than 60 MPs signed a motion condemning the decision.

Oxford University's English faculty responded by organising for the publisher Carcanet to pick up many of the poets on the list. However, sources close to the Forward prize said Carcanet failed to submit any Oxford writers until requested to by the judges.

One source said: "The presence of Shapcott and Draycott on the list proves how great was the talent-spotting genius of Jacqueline Simms, the woman who ran the OUP poetry list and who was unceremoniously dumped by OUP."

Shapcott, who is now published by Faber and Faber, has been shortlisted for her collection My Life Asleep, described by one critic as full of post-feminist triumphalism and flirtations with extreme behaviour. Draycott is nominated for "Prince Rupert's Drop", which movingly describes the death of her brother from Aids.

Duffy, who was one of the alternative suggestions to Andrew Motion for the position of Poet Laureate, has had her collection The World's Wife shortlisted. This provocative work imagines the confessional outpourings of Mrs Satan, Mrs Freud and other "wives" from history.

Muldoon has been shortlisted for his book Hay, which is notable for its sequence of poems with rock'n' roll allusions. Clanchy's shortlisted work is Samarakand, described as moving be- tween exoticism and cosy domesticity.

Chairman of the judges is Simon Armitage, the official millennium poet.

The others are The Independent's writer and critic John Walsh, the literary editor of The Times Erica Wagner, the Cornish poet Penelope Shuttle, and the writer and Orange prize winner Helen Dunmore.