T. S. Eliot Prize News

Poem of the Week

Poem of the week this week comes from David Harsent’s Fire Songs, published by Faber. Fire Songs won the 2014 T. S. Eliot Prize. You can hear David reading from his collection here.


A place of ice over ice, of white over white
and beauty in absences. There was a time when the only sound
was the wind calling its ghosts, when the skyline was set

clean as a scar on glass, when your heartbeat slowed
with the cold, when your dreams brought in a white bird
on a white sky and music that could only be heard

from time to time on the other side of night.
Now the horizon’s a smudge; now there’s a terrible weight
in the air and a stain cut hard and deep in the permafrost.

Breakage and slippage; the rumble of some vast
machine cranking its pistons, of everything on the slide;
and the water rising fast, and the music lost.

Poem of the Week

Poem of the week this week comes from Louise Gluck’s Faithful and Virtuous Night, published by Carcanet. Faithful and Virtuous Night was shortlisted for the 2014 T. S. Eliot Prize. You can hear Louise reading from this collection here.

‘The Past’

Small light in the sky appearing
suddenly between
two pine boughs, their fine needles

now etched onto the radiant surface
and above this
high, feathery heaven –

Smell the air. That is the smell of the white pine,
most intense when the wind blows through it
and the sound it makes equally strange,

like the sound of the wind in a movie –

Shadows moving. The ropes
making the sound they make. What you hear now
will be the sound of the nightingale, chordata,
the male bird courting the female –

The ropes shift. The hammock
sways in the wind, tied
firmly between two pine trees.

Smell the air. That is the smell of the white pine.

It is my mother’s voice you hear
or is it only the sound the trees make
when the air passes through them

because what sound would it make,
passing through nothing?

The T. S. Eliot Prize – A Retrospective

This year sees the 26th T. S. Eliot Prize being awarded, with the first Prize going to Ciarán Carson in 1993 for his collection First Language, published by The Gallery Press. Ciarán was shortlisted again in 2008 for For All We Know, also published by The Gallery Press. Another Irish poet, Sinéad Morrissey, has been shortlisted no less than four times: in 2002 for Between Here and There, in 2005 for The State of the Prisons, again in 2009 for Through the Square Window, and finally in 2013 for Parallax (all Carcanet), which won the Prize that year.  Sean O’Brien’s career has seen him win every major poetry prize in the UK, having been shortlisted five times for the T. S. Eliot Prize: in 2001 for Downriver, in 2007 for The Drowned Book (which won the Prize that year), in 2011 for November, in 2015 for The Beautiful Librarians and again this year with Europa (all Picador). Simon Armitage has been shortlisted no less than four times, alongside Pascale Petit and David Harsent, who won the Prize in 2014 with Fire Songs (Faber). One of this year’s Judges, Daljit Nagra, has been shortlisted twice, in 2011 and 2013.

Many poets have been shortlisted twice or more, including Fiona Sampson (twice), Ruth Padel (three times), Paul Farley (three times), Kathleen Jamie (twice), Carol Ann Duffy (twice, winning with Rapture in 2005), Jacob Polley (three times, winning with Jackself (Picador) in 2016), Mark Doty (three times, winning in the Prize’s third year with My Alexandria (Cape)), Jen Hadfield (shortlisted twice, winning with her debut Nigh-no-place (Bloodaxe) in 2008), Anne Carson (twice), Sharon Olds (twice, winning in 2013 with Stag’s Leap (Cape), Seamus Heaney (three times, winning with District and Circle in 2006), Robin Robertson (three times), Selima Hill (twice, in 2001 and 2015), Michael Longley (three times, winning in 2000 with The Weather in Japan (Cape)), and John Burnside (three times, winning in 2011 with Black Cat Bone (Cape). Don Paterson, who has been shortlisted three times, remains the only poet to have won the Prize twice, in 1997 with God’s Gift to Women and again in 2003 with Landing Light (both Faber).

In the last ten years, the Prize has been won three times by debut collections – Jen Hadfield in 2008, Sarah Howe with Loop of Jade in 2015 and Ocean Vuong last year with Night Sky with Exit Wounds. Many debut collections have been shortlisted down the years, notably Jacob Polley’s The Brink in 2003, Kathryn Gray’s The Never Never in 2004, Helen Farish’s Intimates in 2005, Francis Leviston’s Public Dream in 2008, Sam Willetts’ New Light for the Old Dark in 2010, Helen Mort’s Division Street in 2013 and Fiona Benson’s Bright Travellers in 2014.

A total of seven publishers have won the T. S. Eliot Prize: poets from Faber & Faber have won nine times, Jonathan Cape six, Bloodaxe and Picador three times each, Carcanet twice and Chatto & Windus and The Gallery Press once each.

Past Winners

  • 2017 – Ocean Vuong, Night Sky with Exit Wounds (Cape)
  • 2016 – Jacob Polley, Jackself (Picador)
  • 2015 – Sarah Howe, Loop of Jade (Chatto & Windus)
  • 2014 – David Harsent, Fire Songs (Faber)
  • 2013 – Sinéad Morrissey, Parallax (Carcanet)
  • 2012 – Sharon Olds, Stag’s Leap (Cape)
  • 2011 – John Burnside, Black Cat Bone (Cape)
  • 2010 – Derek Walcott, White Egrets (Faber)
  • 2009 – Philip Gross, The Water Table (Bloodaxe)
  • 2008 – Jen Hadfield, Nigh-No-Place (Bloodaxe)
  • 2007 – Sean O’Brien, The Drowned Book (Picador)
  • 2006 – Seamus Heaney, District and Circle (Faber)
  • 2005 – Carol Ann Duffy, Rapture (Picador)
  • 2004 – George Szirtes, Reel (Bloodaxe)
  • 2003 – Don Paterson, Landing Light (Faber)
  • 2002 – Alice Oswald, Dart (Faber)
  • 2001 – Anne Carson, The Beauty of the Husband (Cape)
  • 2000 – Michael Longley, The Weather in Japan (Cape)
  • 1999 – Hugo Williams, Billy’s Rain (Faber)
  • 1998 – Ted Hughes, Birthday Letters (Faber)
  • 1997 – Don Paterson, God’s Gift to Women (Faber)
  • 1996 – Les Murray, Subhuman Redneck Poems (Carcanet)
  • 1995 – Mark Doty, My Alexandria (Cape)
  • 1994 – Paul Muldoon, The Annals of Chile (Faber)
  • 1993 – Ciarán Carson, First Language: Poems (Gallery Press)