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Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Trick or Treats from the TS Eliot Prize

Sweets from strangers, or a bitter pill: poetry prizes, and being on or off the longlists, shortlists and final nomination lists, for them, can be either a thrilling gift, or a blade in an apple. The three judges for this year's TS Eliot Poetry Prize, the most-sought and respected of its kind in the UK, have met, and tomorrow their list of ten poets will be made public. Four are already known, as they were earlier selected by the PBS, hosts of the award, and these are Sean O'Brien, Sophie Hannah, Ian Duhig and Sarah Maguire. Six places are up for grabs, and near to 100 books are in contention. At this stage, with his Forward win, O'Brien would be the early front-runner.

Eyewear will comment more, tomorrow, after the list is announced. It will be intriguing to see how parochial, or how open-minded, the final list is - that is, whether it veers more to Hobsbaum's closed sense of Tradition, or early Eliot's ideas of experiment. The panel of judges - Peter Porter (filling in for UA Fanthorpe), Sujata Bhatt, and W.N. Herbert - represents a variety of poetics and tastes, and years of experience with form and language-play. I wouldn't be surprised to see Daljit Nagra, Edwin Morgan and Mimi Khalvati there. There are many other good poets up this year, such as Annie Freud, Joanne Limburg and Luke Kennard. Will Salt, for instance, breakthrough and get books nominated? Another good young poet debuting this year is Frances Leviston, who read for Oxfam in the past. And Fiona Sampson, David Morley, Elaine Feinstein, Michael Schmidt, are also strong possible contenders. Too many other names to mention here, such as Claire Crowther, and Matthew Sweeney. Also, this year a number of major North American poets had books eligible, such as John Ashbery, Margaret Atwood, and Adrienne Rich. It'd be good see Ashbery on this list, especially, surely. We shall see...
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