Skip to main content

The TS Eliot Prize 2007 shortlist is announced

Eyewear was going to title this post "Mischief Night", "Nagra Falls" or "Judging and the Individual Talent" but decided against such frivolity. The TS Eliot Prize 2007 shortlist has been announced today. Below, the list in full, and remember, all poetry books published this year, in Ireland or the UK, were eligible (if submitted):

Ian Duhig for The Speed of Dark (Picador)
Alan Gillis for Hawks and Doves (Gallery)
Sophie Hannah for Pessimism for Beginners (Carcanet)
Mimi Khalvati for The Meanest Flower (Carcanet)
Frances Leviston for Public Dream (Picador)
Sarah Maguire for The Pomegranates of Kandahar (Chatto)
Edwin Morgan for A Book of Lives (Carcanet)
Sean O'Brien for The Drowned Book (Picador)
Fiona Sampson for Common Prayer (Carcanet)
Matthew Sweeney for Black Moon (Jonathan Cape)

The list, which is a strong one, has thrown up some surprises, some less welcome than others. To my mind, it was a major lost opportunity, not including Daljit Nagra's extraordinary debut collection. I realise that there is give-and-take on the judging panel, so it'd be interesting to listen in on why they felt Nagra's brilliant collection was not worthy of inclusion.

I know some poets hold a bias against poetry whose diction is "impure" in its use of English (see Hobsbaum's writing on this subject), and also a bias against poetry which engages with popular culture, and humour. Nagra's dexterous cultural handling of post-colonial issues, linguistic hybridity, and lyrical wit, is Muldoonian in its promise (as is the work of Gillis, thus seeming to confuse the issue). His absence from the list is shocking to me. Consider the following: "From 2006 the T S Eliot Prize, set up in memory of one of our greatest poets, will reflect Eliot's commitment to encouraging young people to read and enjoy poetry. The Poetry Book Society, which runs the Prize, is delighted to announce the launch of the School Shadowing Scheme." How can the PBS encourage young people, when its prize doesn't list or award precisely the exciting younger poets that do engage young - and old - readers?

At any rate, there is much to celebrate on this list. Fiona Sampson, Matthew Sweeney, and Mimi Khalvati, especially, are very good poets, well-deserving of being there. Frances Leviston, too, is a very good up-and-coming poet - from the poems I have seen from her new collection (in Ten Hallam Poets and published in magazines) - her debut will be one of the strongest of the decade - as strong, in some ways, as Kennard's or Nagra's. It is good to see the superb Irish press, Gallery, noted. It is also very good to see the great Edwin Morgan honoured here. I am not mentioning the four previously-listed poets, as we knew they'd be here, and we knew their books were strong contenders.

It is unfortunate that there was no room for Margaret Atwood, John Ashbery, Leonard Cohen, or Geoffrey Hill - each had a collection up for the prize, this year. And, there were few poets representing the other traditions in British poetry; and no Salt poets. I am sure someone somewhere is wishing Atwood and Ashbery had been selected - what a pre-award reading that would have been! And, doesn't it make the British poetry world seem a little parochial, and small, when they can't manage to recognise that (and this is ironic in the present context) Ashbery is the most significant, and canonically-influential American poet since, arguably, TS Eliot? His absence is also to be mourned for that reason.

Anyway, congratulations to all those on the list. May be the best poet win. ...

Who will win, now? With Nagra gone, the field is relatively wide open. I won't hazard a guess just yet, but will write more in early January before the final announcement of the winner.
2 comments

Popular posts from this blog

AMERICA PSYCHO

According to the latest CBS, ABC, etc, polls, Clinton is still likely to beat Trump - by percentile odds of 66% to 33% and change. But the current popular vote is much closer, probably tied with the error of margin, around 44% each. Trump has to win more key battleground states to win, and may not - but he is ahead in Florida...

We will all know, in a week, whether we live in a world gone madder, or just relatively mad.

While it seems likely calmer heads will prevail, the recent Brexit win shows that polls can mislead, especially when one of the options is considered a bit embarrassing, rude or even racist - and Trump qualifies for these, at least.

If 42-45% of Americans admit they would vote for Trump, what does that say about the ones not so vocal? For surely, they must be there, as well. Some of the undecided will slide, and more likely they will slide to the wilder and more exciting fringe candidate. As may the libertarians.

Eyewear predicts that Trump will just about manage to win th…

DANGER, MAN

Like a crazed killer clown, whether we are thrilled, horrified, shocked, or angered (or all of these) by Donald Trump, we cannot claim to be rid of him just yet. He bestrides the world stage like a silverback gorilla (according to one British thug), or a bad analogy, but he is there, a figure, no longer of fun, but grave concern.

There has long been a history of misogynistic behaviour in American gangster culture - one thinks of the grapefruit in the face in The Public Enemy, or Sinatra throwing a woman out of his hotel room and later commenting he didn't realise there was a pool below to break her fall, or the polluted womb in Pacino'sScarface... and of course, some gangsta rap is also sexist.  American culture has a difficult way with handling the combined aspects of male power, and male privilege, that, especially in heteronormative capitalist enclaves, where money/pussy both become grabbable, reified objects and objectives (The Wolf of Wall Street for instance), an ugly fus…

OSCAR SMOSHCAR

The Oscars - Academy Awards officially - were once huge cultural events - in 1975, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Shirley MacLaineandBob Hope co-hosted, for example - and Best Picture noms included The Conversation and Chinatown. Godfather Part 2 won. Last two years, movies titled Birdman and Spotlight won, and the hosts and those films are retrospectively minor, trifling. This year, some important, resonant films are up for consideration - including Hidden Figures and Moonlight, two favourites of this blog. Viola Davis and Denzel Washington will hopefully win for their sterling performances in Fences. However, La La Land - the most superficial and empty Best Picture contender since Gigi in 1959 (which beat Vertigo) - could smite all comers, and render this year's awards historically trivial, even idiotic.

The Oscars often opt for safe, optimistic films, or safe, pessimistic films, that are usually about white men (less often, white women) finding their path to doing the right thin…