TS Eliot Award Announces ‘Shape Changer’ Shortlist | Books

Five debut collections are shortlisted for this year’s TS Eliot Prize for Best New Poetry Collection, which has seen a record number of submissions.

Victoria Adukwei Bulley, Mark Pajak, James Conor Patterson, Denise Saul and Yomi Sode are all listed for the £25,000 prize.

They are joined by Philip Gross, who won the award in 2009, Fiona Benson, Jemma Borg, Anthony Joseph and Zaffar Kunial.

Jury president Jean Sprackland said the shortlist consisted of books that “delighted, surprised and struck our hearts”.

Sprackland, who was joined on the judging panel by 2021 Costa winner Hannah Lowe and 2019 TS Eliot Prize winner Roger Robinson, said the record number of entries for this year’s award – 201 – was a ” a reminder that far from being reduced to silence by the crisis, the poets rise up to meet it through language”.

Adukwei Bulley, whose Quiet collection earned her a spot on the list, is a former student of the Barbican Young Poets and recipient of an Eric Gregory Award. Rishi Dastidar in The Guardian said Quiet “marks the arrival of major poetic talent”.

Benson, chosen by this year’s judges for Ephemeron, has already been shortlisted twice for the award: for her Bright Travelers and Vertigo & Ghost collections. Reviewing Ephemeron in the Guardian, Fiona Sampson said the book highlights the poet’s “unusual range”.

Borg, shortlisted for her second Wilder collection, was a zoologist and evolutionary geneticist and worked in science publishing before becoming a full-time writer. Wilder’s poems “call us to remember ourselves as the animals we are”, according to his publisher Liverpool University Press.

Gross is shortlisted for his 27th collection, The Thirteenth Angel, which questions the existence of angels and what it is to be human. He won the TS Eliot Prize in 2009 for his The Water Table collection.

Joseph is the author of five books of poetry and three novels, and has also released eight albums as a musician. He was Colm Tóibín Fellow in Creative Writing at the University of Liverpool in 2018 and received a Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowship. He is shortlisted for Sonnets for Albert, an autobiographical collection that measures the impact of growing up with a largely absent father.

Kunial, who was a judge for the award last year, is shortlisted for his second England’s Green collection. Reviewing the collection, Rishi Dastidar said, “Kunial’s ability to convey moments of pure beauty remains unmatched; his style is simple, declarative, elegant”.

Pajak is shortlisted for his debut Slide collection, which, according to Kate Kellaway in The Observer, has “no hard times or worn spots – its refined craftsmanship is striking”.

Patterson is shortlisted for his first country bandit collection, which won an Eric Gregory Award in 2019. He is also the editor of the anthology The New Frontier: Reflections from the Irish Border.

Saul, shortlisted for her debut collection The Room Between Us, is best known for her award-winning collaborative video poem project, Silent Room: A Journey of Language. The Room Between Us tells the story of a mother’s illness and a daughter who takes on the role of caregiver.

Sode, whose Manorism collection was shortlisted, is a playwright as well as a poet, whose play Et respire… premiered at the Almeida Theater in London last year.

Sprackland said of the shortlist: “The shortlisted 10 books are unwavering in their explorations of love and heartbreak, brutality and desire. They are alive with insects and angels, psychedelic plants and deep sea fish; and haunted by the ghosts of Caravaggio and Daniel O’Connell. The English in these books is flexible and changing, inflected with Yoruba, Newry Street dialect and Caribbean language rhythms.

The winner of the prize will be announced on January 16. Last year’s winner was Joelle Taylor for her collection C+nto & Othered Poems.

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