T. S. Eliot Prize News


The T. S. Eliot Foundation is delighted to announce that the winner of the 2020 T. S. Eliot Prize is Bhanu Kapil for How to Wash a Heart, published by Pavilion Poetry

Bhanu Kapil






Chair Lavinia Greenlaw said:

‘Our shortlist celebrated the ways in which poetry is responding to profound change, and the stylistic freedom that today’s poets have claimed. From this impressive field, we unanimously chose Bhanu Kapil’s How to Wash a Heart as our winner. It is a radical and arresting collection that recalibrates what it’s possible for poetry to achieve.’

After months of further reading, Judges Lavinia Greenlaw, Mona Arshi and Andrew McMillan chose the winner from a shortlist which included an exciting mixture of established poets and relative newcomers including three debut collections, work from two Americans, as well as poets of Native American, Chinese Indonesian and British, Indian and mixed race ancestry. Nine publishers were represented, more than for many years, with five titles from new or recently-established presses.

You can see more of Bhanu’s videos here, and listen to the Shortlist Readings here.

Bhanu Kapil was born in England to Indian parents, and she grew up in a South Asian, working-class community in London. She lives in the UK and US where she spent 21 years at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. She is the author of six books of poetry/prose: The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers (Kelsey Street Press, 2001), Incubation: a space for monsters (Leon Works, 2006), humanimal  (Kelsey Street Press, 2009), Schizophrene (Nightboat, 2011), Ban en Banlieue (Nightboat, 2015) and How to Wash a Heart (Pavilion Poetry 2020), her first collection to be published in the UK, which was a Poetry Book Society Choice.

Pavilion Poetry is a new imprint of Liverpool University Press which was set up seven years ago: https://www.liverpooluniversitypress.co.uk/series/series-12328/

Lavina Greenlaw announced that Bhanu Kapil was the winner of the 2020 T. S. Eliot Prize at the end of the T. S. Eliot Prize Readings streamed from the Southbank Centre on Sunday 24th January. All ten poets read to an international audience in a fantastic evening of poetry. The broadcast version will be available until 31 January from the Southbank Centre:  https://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whats-on/literature-poetry/ts-eliot-prize?eventId=863500

Bhanu will receive the prize money of  £25,000 and each shortlisted poet will receive £1,500 in recognition of their achievement in winning a place on the most prestigious shortlist in UK poetry.

The T. S. Eliot Prize is run by The T. S. Eliot Foundation. It is the most valuable prize in British poetry and the only poetry prize which is judged purely by established poets. The 2020 judging panel was looking for the best new poetry collection written in English and published in 2020.

For more information on this year’s shortlist, including videos of the poets, new reviews and readers’ notes, and the Prize in general, please visit the T. S. Eliot Prize website.

The weekly T. S. Eliot Prize newsletter has provided essential background on the shortlisted poets, including links to specially-commissioned new videos, readers’ notes and reviews. To look at past newslettters or subscribe go to: tseliot.com/prize/subscribe-to-the-t-s-eliot-prize-newsletter/

Last year’s winner was Roger Robinson’s A Portable Paradise and the judges were John Burnside (chair), Sarah Howe and Nick Makoha.

Corsair Poetry



Sarah Castleton


It would be disingenuous of me to claim that the list began with any kind of manifesto. It didn’t. It’s not entirely untrue that it began with a certain low-level frustration on my part that I couldn’t easily buy editions of books by two poets: Mary Oliver and Morgan Parker. So, I decided I would try and publish them. It feels particularly good to know that Mary was happy with the work we had done and knew her work was in print here before she died. If the list has a heart, it’s right there: with Mary’s clarity and timelessness, with Morgan’s energy and wit, her way of being always ahead of some curve. In fact, next year we publish the first UK edition of Morgan’s debut Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up At Night (no one does titles like Morgan does titles) and the first UK edition of Mary Oliver’s Dog Songs.

Honestly, I am not part of any poetry scene. I am not based in London. I am not a poet. I don’t claim to be any kind of expert. I acquire poetry like I acquire fiction – relying heavily on my ear for words on a page, a certain degree of gut-instinct. I read to learn. I am a slow reader. I fear I depend far too much on the passage of time: I like to let words percolate. To hear what silence reveals, I guess. I think perhaps it means I am open to things that might not be immediately ‘obvious’.

I want the list to develop publishing poets from home and elsewhere, to do that through submissions and by happy chance, through collaboration and conversation. Next year, I am excited to be publishing Joyelle McSweeney. The brilliant Nightboat Books published her collection Toxicon and Arachne earlier this year in the US. To my mind, she is writing some of the most genuinely thrilling poetry around.

Also next year, we are celebrating twenty years of Malika Booker’s Poetry Kitchen, with an anthology edited by Rishi Dastidar and Maisie Lawrence. I hope it stands as testimony to the work of this quiet, mighty, revolutionary collective in nurturing and elevating the work of poets who did not fit the traditional literary establishment.

Truthfully, I suffer a lot from impostor syndrome but to look at the small bookshelf of poets we publish, I can’t help but feel we are doing something good. Mary and Morgan and Joyelle; Ada Limon, Fatimah Asghar, Fiona Sampson, Heather Christle. And, of course, Shane McCrae. The Gilded Auction Block was my book of the year last year To see Sometimes I Never Suffered on the T S Eliot shortlist alongside these other incredible poets is a big moment for a nascent list. I’m delighted for him and delighted to say that we will be publishing his next collection in 2022. The future is and ever was a fragile thing – but there will be damn good poetry to greet us there.

Corsair Poetry online

Perspectives and Connections: On Publishing Poetry



Jane Commane, Nine Arches Press


photo © Lee Townsend

2020 has been a strange and challenging year for so many of us. Here at Nine Arches, we’ve been adapting to working from home as we continued to publish our books and magazines, and got used to Zoom catch-ups with our colleagues and with our poets, whilst learning quite a lot of new digital skills, all within a very short space of time. It’s been quite a dizzying juggling act at times. Most of all, we have greatly missed the offline live events, festivals and travel that would normally punctuate our poetry calendar.

As we take stock of a year of change and upheaval, we’re looking ahead to 2021 and to an important milestone for us. The new year will bring our 100th publication, which we’ll be marking by publishing T S Eliot Prize shortlisted poet Jacqueline Saphra’s One Hundred Lockdown Sonnets. The book is a poetic journal in a sequence of sonnets, charting the experience of one hundred days of the first lockdown. There will only be 100 copies of the book available, and it will be produced as a limited-edition hardback sold in aid of the Trussell Trust.

In many ways, One Hundred Lockdown Sonnets is also a little nod to our origins as a pamphlet publisher. It feels fitting to be both honouring our roots as a publisher in this way, and to be publishing something which so uniquely looks to the current moment and reflects our lives now.

In the last twelve years, Nine Arches Press has gradually grown from a small pamphlet publisher, based in my spare room and tended to between other jobs, to a flourishing publishing house with a real sense of community at its heart. For me as editor, one of the most satisfying elements is that you start to have the long-view perspective over the life’s work of the poets you work with, which is a real privilege. You have the pleasure of being party to the creative processes of poets, and get to see their work’s evolution. You come to understand better what it is that drives each poet; to know their obsessions and themes that inform their writing, and watch them test their wings as writers, set themselves new boundaries.

So often the role I have as an editor is a bridge between the reader and poet – and it’s one that involves a kind of openness, and sense of inquiry. You have to be prepared to ask questions, to listen and understand the mechanisms at work, as well as to hold in your mind the structure and potential shape of a whole, finished book and imagine a reader’s journey through it. I love this process, and the sense it gives me of where a poet is coming from – and where they might be going to next.

I’m a poet as well as an editor, and I think that it also matters to see poetry as a lifelong endeavour, an artform that is a part of who we are – and for publishers to also be there for the long term to support, encourage and open space for writers to create the work they need to. It seems essential to me that writers have the room that enables them to be daring, take risks and try new things – or simply find new ways to continue and explore, to unfold and examine persistent things that are at the heart of why they write.

The perspective the last twelve years has brought is that publishing doesn’t just begin and end with printing a book. It involves a real investment of time and care in poems and in poets themselves. It involves building a space for writers and audiences and readers to occupy which values the experience of poetry as a fundamentally powerful moment, the moment in which a connection through words and language lives inside us. Our support through Arts Council England has been vital in enabling us to continue to work to develop and support writers directly, whether established or emerging – and it’s also been vital in helping us to adapt through the current challenges of the pandemic.

This year, much of the space our books and our poetry has occupied has been a digital one and though it may seem a long way from making poetry pamphlets on your kitchen table, I think there’s much more in common in approach than might first be apparent. Both, after all, bring poetry into the heart of the home, and both – whether hi-tech or lo-fi – create that vital moment of connection we all crave, and which poetry is especially good at forging.