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.

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

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:

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, with the winning poet receiving the prize of £25,000 and the shortlisted poets each receiving £1,500. It is 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.

This year’s Prize also continues the collaboration between the T. S. Eliot Foundation and the Poetry Archive. The T. S. Eliot Prize Winners’ Archive presents a celebration of the Prize and going forward each winner will be inducted into the Archive, so that their voice will be preserved and made available for posterity online.

We have beautiful recordings of the shortlisted poets reading and talking about their work, a remarkable body of work with 40 videos available on YouTube and here on our Shortlist page. The audio from this year’s Shortlist Readings at the Southbank Centre is also available on YouTube.

Revisit this year’s Shortlist with our illuminating Readers’ Notes on each collection, and don’t miss John Field’s reviews.