Thursday, November 01, 2007

TS Eliot Prize 2007 Shortlist

The shortlist for the TS Eliot Prize 2007 has been announced, one of the UK’s biggest awards:

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

I like a few of these poets, but my first reaction is to feel it’s a rather conservative, predictable list of names.

As far as publishers go, I make the score:

Carcanet 4
Picador 3
Gallery 1
Cape 1
Chatto & Windus 1

which means 0 for Faber & Faber and Bloodaxe, and no debut on the list for Salt or Shearsman (so no Luke Kennard or Claire Crowther), let alone any of the smaller presses. That's nothing new of course.

The two surprises are Allan Gillis (whose book I must take a look at, as he lives in Edinburgh) and Frances Leviston, whose debut collection is still to be published (so impossible for me to know how good it is). **Actually, I've just realised that it was published today.**

Can Edwin Morgan do it? He probably deserves a lifetime’s service award, and there’s some great stuff in A Book of Lives, but I don’t think it’s his strongest collection.

Difficult to call. I'll say more over the next few days.


Andrew Shields said...

I was floored by the Duhig and the Sweeney. Have not read the rest.

Jim Sheard said...

'Public Dream' is very, very good, Rob. It's one of those occasions when poetry manages startling clarity without any abandonment of intellectual enquiry or the unashamed love of language. Luminous stuff.

Anonymous said...

I was chatting to Don Paterson after a book signing about 3 years ago, September 2004, and he was talking about how he'd snapped up Frances for Picador, how good the work was, etc. And I think this was on the basis of her 20-page pamphlet from Sheffield Hallam. Keen to read the book.


Rob said...

Well, here's one poem from Frances Leviston's Public Dream, Humbles, published last week in the Guardian.

It's certainly very, very good. If I buy one new book of poetry this month, it will probably be this one.

Jane Holland said...

Picador still creaming the opposition in terms of shortlisted titles, I note.

Only one new book of poetry this month, Rob? Glad you didn't spot me at the bookstall at Aldeburgh this weekend, then. I think I blew an entire year's allowance for poetry in the space of two days. I bought eight books, including two I already owned - just to get 'em signed by the poet! - and the huge hardback tome of Ted Hughes' letters which has rather sneakily worked its way to the very top of my To Read list, in spite of being the newest acquisition.

Still, someone's got to spend that sort of money on poetry. Or we'll all go under.

Rob said...

Sounds like a good haul, Jane. You bought two books just to get them signed? That's dedication!

I should point out that when I say "new", I mean "newly published." On the other hand, I probably can't justify buying many poetry books until I finish the ones I've bought recently and have been reading simultaneously (but not quite finished).

I've also been reading a couple of books sent to me for review in Orbis. I've been looking at them carefully, as I hate reviews which sound as though the reviewer has read little more than the opening poem and the blurbs on the back jacket.

Too many books, too little time - that's always my problem.