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Friday, 22 October 2010

TS Eliots 2010

The TS Eliot Prize - there were apparently 123 eligible books this year.  I'd like to see the longlist of the other 113 - it would be far more refreshing.  What's set in?  Acclaim fatigue.  Heaney and Walcott, with their Nobels, don't need the attention or the money.  Either, of course, has a book good enough to win such a prize.  As do all of the other eight on this list. It seems sad the big news angle is that one of the poets is a "recovering heroin addict"!  Most poets I know are recovering from, or entering into, one addiction or another, at any given time, or facing some life crisis - as are we all.  That is the media's fault, the media that has managed to almost kill poetry dead in the UK with its stop-start attention.  Is it good that Annie Freud and Fiona Sampson and Pascale Petit - three of the best poets now writing in England - are noted?  Yes.  I think most exciting is the presence of Brian Turner here - a poet not widely known in the UK, yet.  Turner is arguably the most important "War poet" of this decade.  Of the others on the list, none is weak.  Robin Robertson is a poet's poet.  Armitage is a crowd pleaser.  Willets is a big debut.  Haynes is increasingly a formalist maestro.  All could win, if they could get from under the famous shadow.  Turner's winning the prize would be most appropriate as a summation of the 00s, if nothing else.  Walcott's White Egrets is one of the greatest late works in the high modernist style since Yeats.  Too close to call.  But - where are the Salt books?  Where is the breakthrough of the performance poets, the avant-garde, the youth wave?  In those other 113, lies the future of British poetry, unless in Britain, poetry's future is endlessly repressed, always to return as the angry margin.
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