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Surprise Win At The TS Eliot's

Eyewear was at the Eliot awards last night. Jen Hadfield was not the expected winner of last night's TS Eliot. As almost every commentator had noted, including Sean O'Brien in the Sunday Times, and Eyewear, Mick Imlah seemed to be the frontrunner. It made for a strange, sad night, in one sense, that Imlah did not win for his brilliant book, and had also died the same day.

However, if it was possible for a prize winning announcement to lift gloom and spread joy, Andrew Motion's that Hadfield, the youngest-ever winner, at 30, had actually taken the Eliot prize for best book published in the United Kingdom and Ireland in 2008, did so. Hadfield is impossible to dislike, as a person or poet. She is personally warm, genuine, fun and imaginative - a breath of fresh air. Her poetry is playful, imaginative, original, and delightful. Her win is exciting, because it almost marks a break with an older generation, and signals the arrival of a new one - a generation that really began to emerge around 2003 or 2004.

The judges this year, Andrew Motion, Tobias Hill, and Lavinia Greenlaw, are to be commended for their subtle, brave, and imaginative decision. It must have been difficult to look beyond the likely winning circle, and think ahead, to future directions of poetry. By awarding the prize to such a young, experimental, and joyous woman, they've lifted the spirits of the prize, so often the domain of older men, and made it a thing of wonder, hope, and possibility again. Not quite an Obama moment, but, for British poetry, the next best thing.


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Wheeler Light currently lives in Boulder, Colorado.

Life Jacket

summer camp shirtsI couldn’t fit in then
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With the death of the poetic genius John Ashbery, whose poems, translations, and criticism made him, to my mind, the most influential American poet since TS Eliot, 21st century poetry is moving into less certain territory.

Over the past few years, we have lost most of the truly great of our era: Edwin Morgan, Gunn, Hill, Heaney and Walcott, to name just five.  There are many more, of course. This is news too sad and deep to fathom this week.  I will write more perhaps later. 

I had a letter from Ashbery on my wall, and it inspired me daily.  He gave me advice for my PhD. He said kind things about a poetry book of mine.

He was a force for good serious play in poetry, and his appeal great. So many people I know and admire are at a loss this week because of his death. It is no consolation at present to think of the many thousands of living poets, just right now. But impressively, and even oddly, poetry itself seems to keep flowing.