David Harsent, currently professor of creative writing at the University of Roehampton, has won the TS Eliot Prize for poetry at the fifth attempt. He has been awarded the prestigious £20,000 award for his eleventh collection Fire Songs. It was his fifth nomination, dating back to 1998, but he had not previously won.
The TS Eliot Prize was launched in 1993 to celebrate the Poetry Book Society’s 40th birthday and to honour its founding poet. The prize money is donated by the TS Eliot estate and to mark the 50th anniversary of Eliot’s death on 4 January 2015, the winner’s award was increased from £15,000 to £20,000.
Chair of the judges Helen Dunmore described Harsent as “a poet for dark and dangerous days. Fire Songs plumbs language and emotion with technical brilliance and prophetic power.”
A fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, Harsent was presented with his award at a ceremony at the Wallace Collection in London on Monday 12th January.
His previous collections include Legion, 2005, which won the Forward Prize for best collection, and 2011’s Night, shortlisted for the Costa, Forward and TS Eliot Prizes and won the Griffin International Poetry Prize.
Other 2015 nominees, chosen from 113 books submitted by publishers, included former winners John Burnside and Michael Longley. The 10 shortlisted authors received £1,500 each.
The TS Eliot Prize 2014 shortlist:
Fiona Benson – Bright Travellers
John Burnside – All One Breath
Louise Gluck – Faithful and Virtuous Night
David Harsent – Fire Songs
Michael Longley – The Stairwell
Ruth Padel – Learning to Make an Oud in Nazareth
Pascale Petit – Fauverie
Kevin Powers – Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting
Arundhathi Subramaniam – When God is a Traveller
Hugo Williams – I Knew the Bride