Next month, Britain’s most important prize for new poets might go to a book about Super Mario. To ask the obvious question first: is this some kind of joke?

“To be utterly honest, it started as a joke,” admits Stephen Sexton. The 31-year-old has been shortlisted for Best First Collection at the Forward Prizes, the award that launched the careers of Booker nominee Robin Robertson and poet laureate Simon Armitage.

“I thought it would be kind of silly to write a book about Super Mario World,” Sexton tells me over the phone from Belfast. “Wouldn’t it be fun to treat this absolutely seriously, to treat its landscapes as if they’re real landscapes?” 

Every poem in his first book, When All the World…





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