T. S. Eliot Prize News

Granta Poetry


Granta Poetry Rachael Allen


I am very inspired by a number of presses in North America, including WAVE books, Ugly Duckling Presse and Black Ocean, and the way these presses (and others like them) create space for erudite, visually innovative, essential books of poetry. As the poetry editor for Granta magazine, I have been lucky enough to publish some of the most exciting contemporary poets. Being able to work with a few of these writers before they had books in mind allowed our first three publications to evolve organically and collaboratively from an early stage. The list really began through these poets’ trust in me.

I edited and published a small-press poetry pamphlet series for a number of years, and retaining the ethics of the small-press and of DIY publishing is very important to me: creating a sense of community, believing in publishing as a space for radical change, and supporting other presses and poets – especially smaller presses – which is where the most essential work happens.

I want the direction of the list to be guided by the work I publish and to always be open to change. But for now; I want to make space for work that might not have space otherwise. I am interested in poetry that doesn’t compromise itself. I like work that engages unashamedly with poetics.

I don’t think we have any particular areas of focus, but I like books of poems that look to break structural binds and cross forms and genres. We have two exceptional books of poems coming in 2021, one of which is Holly Pester’s ludic and essential COMIC TIMING in February.

Will Harris and Daisy Lafarge speak to people and poetry with a vision so generous, so insightful, giving and innovative. They prove to me the importance and necessity of poems to the world.


Offord Road Books


Martha Sprackland


The origin of the list is in 2017, and began with one pamphlet, by Melissa Lee-Houghton, which I and ORB’s co-founder, Patrick Davidson Roberts, were lucky enough to read in manuscript form. We formed ORB in order to publish it, and then to publish other brilliant poetry we thought deserved to be out there. The list is named for the street we lived on during that first formative time.

After three years and ten more publications, and a brief hiatus to catch our breath, over summer this year we opened our reading window; now unfortunately closed again, we are currently reading through more than five hundred new submissions of poetry, essay and fiction, and finding wonderful things in there. In 2022 we’re hoping to publish a novel – watch this space. And we’ll continue to publish the best and boldest in new poetry. In the coming years we’re hoping to collaborate with other publishers, creating innovative crossover works, anthologies and hybrid events. If this year has shown us anything, is that we need to be able to adapt to a changing world. We’re a tiny list, and pride ourselves on being agile, and to dedicating serious editorial rigour to the books we champion. In the near future we hope to bring that focus to work in translation, by poets yet to make an appearance in print in English.

Ella Frears’s debut collection Shine, Darling, which we published in April this year, right in the midst of the first lockdown, is a book we’re phenomenally proud of. It’s intimate, funny, technically adept, and has found admiring readers wherever it’s gone. It has sold more than a thousand copies to date (no mean feat, for a publishing house our size!), been chosen by the PBS as one of their 2020 Recommendations, was one of just five books shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, and, of course, now joins the shortlist for the T. S. Eliot Prize. I agree with Mark Waldron, who writes that ‘These poems have a clarity and straightforwardness that only a special kind of attention, and a certain kind of fearlessness, can achieve.’ I hope that Offord Road Books can continue to be inspired by Ella’s fearlessness, and to carry it with us into the books we publish in the years to come.

Carcanet Press

Michael Schmidt

Carcanet is delighted that Sasha Dugdale is shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot. A distinctive critic and teacher, a brilliant translator, most of all she’s a poet who takes formal and thematic risks, understands the changing dynamics of the poem sequence, and explores histories through scholarly, open inventiveness.

What about her publisher? The thing I like least about Carcanet is its name. People don’t know how to pronounce it. If it didn’t have that fey ‘t’ at the end, it would be a strong, English-sounding word, car-CANE. The ‘t’ Frenchifies it, if you don’t know your Shakespeare or Herrick, and if you look it up, it turns out to be a jewelled gorget. Yuck.

I didn’t choose the name. Carcanet grew out of the eponymous student magazine I took over in 1967 as an undergraduate. The Press was intended to be a brief, decisive swansong: to publish pamphlets by a few poets whose work Carcanet had encouraged, and then stop. But at the time poetry publishing was hardly thriving. New presses emerged — Fulcrum and Anvil in particular — but old lists were cautious, some were closing. Poets important to us were in peril of losing, or had lost, publishers. There were poets from abroad, Anglophone and other, who ought to have been part of our diet. When Poetry Nation, then PN Review got going, we were caught up in a hopeless enthusiasm which persists.

Carcanet has been backward and forward looking at the same time. We never placed a premium on youth. Age and experience did not count against poets; and we had a weak spot for poet critics. Being British or belonging to a specific school did not matter. We were at odds with the then ‘establishment’. So we grew, and grew.

What is our editorial principle? We wait to be surprised. Submissions which make you read aloud are off to a good start. If they surprise by rightness, and by a relation to larger traditions, modernist or otherwise, they engage us. I want the list to be full of surprises for the reader, marked by formal and linguistic intelligence, and by invention which is not the same thing as novelty. Particularism would be our philosophy, if we had one. It entails a resistance to theories and ‘schools’. To say more would risk a limiting definition… A register of ‘milestones’ would omit books which mean a lot to us, even if they’ve not found wide readership.

Each reader can find a trail through the forests we have planted. For the new reader, an excellent place to start is with Sasha’s Deformations.


Michael Schmidt is the Managing Director and Publisher of Carcanet, which has just celebrated its 50th anniversary. https://www.carcanet.co.uk/index.shtml