Well, it’s that time of year. The TS Eliot Prize is coming up, marking the end of this year’s ‘prize season’. In recent years it’s been the most prestigious, and biggest, award for poetry in the UK; it’s getting a bit of a run for its money lately from the Forward Prize, but still forms a defining look at the state of (‘mainstream’, published, page) poetry in the UK.
My annual one-day workshop on all ten shortlisted books is on Saturday 14 Jan this year – the day before the big ten-poet reading at the Southbank Centre. I think this might be its fifth year – it just feels like a tradition, now. It’s a fantastic way to get stuck into ten books in one day of intensive reading, talking, arguing, laughing, and asking questions no matter how silly they seem. We always have a gas, and are genuinely moved, and are excited by new things, and if you’re going to the big reading event the next night, it will be immeasurably enriched by having done this day. (And if not, you’ll feel as if you had.)
At the end of the day you should feel energised, enthused and fizzing with ideas for your own work, have a new favourite poet, and have somehow discovered something new about what poetry can do for us, right here and right now. You’ll definitely have a handle on this year’s poetry crop. We break for lunch and there’s a wind-down drink afterwards for those who fancy it.
This year’s shortlist contains five books published by Picador – six by women – several new ones by really exciting poets – one first collection so small it’s nearly a pamphlet, which was also shortlisted for the Forwards – it contains form, free verse, prose, long and short, voices and alter egos – love, politics, myth, death in several different guises, exile and longing, mordant humour… Come on!
- Rachael Boast, Void Studies / Picador
- Jacob Polley, Jackself / Picador
- Ian Duhig, The Blind Road-Maker / Picador
- Katharine Towers, The Remedies / Picador
- Denise Riley, Say Something Back / Picador
- Vahni Capildeo, Measures of Expatriation / Carcanet
- J O Morgan, Interference Pattern / Cape Poetry
- Alice Oswald, Falling Awake / Cape Poetry
- Bernard O’Donoghue, The Seasons of Cullen Church / Faber
- Ruby Robinson, Every Little Sound /Liverpool University Press