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Monday, 14 January 2008

Strong Stuff: TS Eliot Prize 2007

Sean O'Brien (pictured at the far right with me and Polly Clark, at one of the first Oxfam readings, which he kindly supported) has long been one of the strongest poet-critics in the British Isles - a big-shouldered future rival to the kind of muscular mastery of the traditional lyric that is basically the Heaney line, descended from Hardy, Frost, and others. He reads most impressively, with a beautiful voice.

In recent years, O'Brien has scooped up prizes like some great cruising cetacean, swallowing smaller fry, and the pilot fish that surf in his wake. Now, he has pulled off a remarkable feat, tonight, winning the T.S. Eliot prize for 2007, in its most robust form yet (the purse has swollen) - all these water images refering of course to his book of water, The Drowned Book (Picador).

It is a curiously apt, even portentous, moment to win, since the UK is braced for earth-threatening floods tonight. Eyewear is not entirely surprised at this audacious win, but still a little surprised. O'Brien was the head judge of these awards last year, and was already well-laurelled for this collection, and is something of a poetry insider, the UK King of the Cats. I thought Morgan, a great genius, and an octogenarian, might have his moment.
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