UK: TS Eliot Prize’s Shortlisted Poets Set for Digital Readings

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With extensive coronavirus mitigation measures in place in London, the TS Eliot Prize’s events set for Royal Festival Hall now will be streamed.

Shortlisted poets in the 2020 TS Eliot Prize program are, top row from left, Natalie Diaz, Sasha Dugdale, Ella Frears, Will Harris, and Wayne Holloway-Smith. On the second row from left, Bhanu Kapil, Daisy Lafarge, Glyn Maxwell, Shane McCrae, and J O Morgan

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Greenlaw: ‘Resilient, Potent, Capricious, Universal’
Organizers of the United Kingdom’s TS Eliot Prize had planned to hold its shortlisted poets’ readings at London’s Royal Festival Hall on January 10 and an awards ceremony on the 11th.

Under the circumstances of coronavirus COVID-19 spread mitigation orders, an adjusted plan was made for a limited-audience reading and announcement of a winner for Sunday (January 24) at Queen Elizabeth Hall4, but that event will now is set for a digital rendition at 1900 GMT. Here’s the link for the program from Southbank. There is a ticket charge of £7.50 (US$10.29).

In case you’re not familiar with this one, the T S Eliot Prize is the best-paying award in British poetry. The winning poet receives a purse of  £25,000 (US$34,111) and each shortlisted poet receives £1,500 (US$2,046).

Its organizers emphasize that it’s “the only major poetry prize which is judged purely by established poets” and the program awards collections written in English and, in this case, published in 2020.

The program’s shortlist was drawn from a total 153 poetry collections submitted by British and Irish publishers. There are five women and five men in the group, and the list of 10 includes two writers who are Americans, as well as poets whose backgrounds range from Chinese, Indonesian, and Native American ancestry to British and Indian roots.

We’re told that the fact that the 10 chosen collections come from nine publishers is unusual by comparison to shortlists in recent years. Granta Poetry is the press with two shortlisted titles. Five titles are from “new or recently  established presses, and three are debuts.

TS Eliot Prize 2020 Shortlisted Collections
  • Natalie Diaz: Postcolonial Love Poem (Faber & Faber)
  • Sasha Dugdale: Deformations (Carcanet Press)
  • Ella Frears: Shine, Darling (Offord Road Books)
  • Will Harris: RENDANG (Granta Poetry)
  • Wayne Holloway Smith: Love Minus Love (Bloodaxe Books)
  • Bhanu Kapil: How to Wash a Heart (Pavilion Poetry)
  • Daisy Lafarge: Life Without Air (Granta Poetry)
  • Glyn Maxwell: How the hell are you (Picador Poetry)
  • Shane McCrae: Sometimes I Never Suffered (Corsair Poetry)
  • J O Morgan: The Martian’s Regress (Cape Poetry)

The jurors for this cycle in the TS Eliot Prize are Lavinia Greenlaw, Mona Arshi, and Andrew McMillan.

Lavinia Greenlaw

In a prepared statement about their selections of the shortlisted collections, Greenlaw is quoted making an interesting point about the fact that the content they’ve reviewed was created before the onslaught of the pathogen.

“My fellow judges and I have been reading books written in a different world,” she says, “the one before COVID-19.

“The urgency and vitality of the 10 books on this shortlist commanded our attention nonetheless. We were unsettled, captivated, and compelled.

“Poetry is the most resilient, potent, capacious, and universal art we have.”

The TS Eliot Prize was established in 1993. The TS Eliot Foundation is a charity set up following the death of Valerie Eliot in 2012 to promote her late husband’s work and legacy.

The Foundation took over the TS Eliot Prize from the Poetry Book Society in 2016.

It gives the prize money and is the sole supporter of the Prize.

The 2019 winner of the prize was A Portable Paradise by Roger Robinson (Peepal Tree Press).

The Coronavirus in the United Kingdom

At this writing, the 8:22 a.m. ET (1322 GMT) update of the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center sees 3,487,827 cases in the UK’s population of 67 million, with 91,643 fatalities.

These numbers again place the UK at fifth in the world today both for caseload and death toll. Countries with more cases are the United States, India, Brazil, and Russia. Countries with more COVID-19 fatalities are the States, Brazil, India, and Mexico.

A BBC News update indicates that England’s lockdown is set now to hold until March 31, though No. 10 would like to ease the restrictions earlier if possible. Elsewhere in the UK, Scotland’s lockdown is to stay in place until mid-February and Wales is due for a review of its restrictions at the end of this month. In Northern Ireland, the current restrictions are in place until February 6, with an extension anticipated.

A report today (January 20) from Joanna Sugden for the Wall Street Journal writes that the Oxford University AstraZeneca PLC vaccine appears to be helping the National Health handle inoculations for 300,000 residents of nursing homes who can’t travel to get shots.

Sugden reports that almost 8 percent of the adult British population has been vaccinated so far.


More from Publishing Perspectives on publishing and book award programs is here, more on poetry is here, and more on the UK market is here.

And more on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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