Annal: 2000 T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry

Results of the T.S. Eliot Prize in the year 2000.

Book:The Weather in Japan

The Weather in Japan

Michael Longley

Consolidating and expanding on the vision of his two previous collections, Longley takes the reader through the various hells we have made this century, from the fields of Flanders, through Terezin and Auschwitz to the troubled north of Ireland. In images drawn from Italy, America and Japan he explores the fundamentals of home and civilisation.

Book:The Asylum Dance

The Asylum Dance

John Burnside

Lucid, tender, and strangely troubling, the poems in this collection are hymns to the tension between the sanctuary of home and the lure of escape. This is Burnside territory: a domestic world threaded through with myth and longing, beyond which lies a no man’s land—the ‘somewhere in between’ of dusk or dawn, of mists or sudden light.

Book:The Book of Love

The Book of Love

Roddy Lumsden

Roddy Lumsden’s new poems eavesdrop on a half urban, half surreal world of ladies, men, and misfits, trying on roles and acting out fantasies. The Book of Love is a celebration of love in all its delightful perversity, whose characters include a randy actor, a vinegar addict, and couples courting in a cupboard, covered with marmalade. As voyeurs sneak into one poem, naturists streak across another, and there is the inevitable lurking presence of the poet’s own (rich but square) alter ego.

Book:Boss Cupid

Boss Cupid

Thom Gunn

A great poet’s freshest, most provocative book.

He dreams at the center of a closed system,
Like the prison system, or a system of love,
Where folktale, recipe, and household custom
Refer back to the maze that they are of.
—from “A System: PCP, or Angel Dust”

Taste and appetite are contraposed in Boss Cupid, the twelfth book of poems by the quintessential San Francisco poet, who is also the quintessential craftsman and quintessentially a love poet, though not of quintessential love.Variations on…[more]

Book:Conjure

Conjure

Michael Donaghy

This collection of poems by Michael Donaghy begins impressively. The first poem, “The Excuse”, is a comic-but-elegiac, sly-yet-touching riff on the pain of losing and remembering a father: “’My father’s sudden death has shocked us all’, Even me, and I’ve just made it up”. The second, equally sensitive poem “Not Knowing the Words”, also deals with a dead father, but this time gently and eloquently argues with itself as to how the father’s void can be filled. Then there’s the fourth poem, “Black Ice and Rain”. This is a true tour de force: a shocking,…

Book:The Drift (Alan Jenkins)

The Drift

Alan Jenkins

The poems in Alan Jenkin’s magnificent new collection are closely linked, forming a movingly autobiographical book which deals with the disjunction between the aspirations of youth and the realities of middle-age. The narrator looks back on his twenties, full of the grand ambition to be the next Rimbaud, and wryly contrasts it with his current situation: friends dead, women lost, opportunities missed. Images of drifting, of the random patterns that fate imposes on existence, weave their way through poems full of sea-scapes and sailing boats. Ghosts loom through the mist; objects imbued with memory accumulate like driftwood. But although Alan Jenkins writes about a sense of loss and failure, his rich poetry—formally dextrous and inventive, witty and subtle in its allusions—acts as a counterbalance showing how the twisting of an emotion into shape can salvage feelings of pointlessness. Through his personal experience he explores themes that will resonate with a broad audience: the difference between men and women.

Book:Granny Scarecrow

Granny Scarecrow

Anne Stevenson

Anne Stevenson has always been a restless, questioning poet whose openness has ensured that each of her collections has been distinctive and challenging. Granny Scarecrow is characteristically full of ideas, but as always, Stevenson approaches them by looking intently at small things and seemingly insignificant events. In creating poetry of acute psychological insight, alert to all shades of meaning, she has managed to be incisive as well as entertaining, marrying critical rigour with personal feeling, and a sharp wit with an original brand of serious humour.

Anne Stevenson was trained as a musician and came to poetry with her auditory imagination already developed. For over forty years she has been writing poetry primarily to be heard and overheard. Experimenting with sounds and verse forms has encouraged experiments with subject matter, and Granny Scarecrow is brimming with ideas that—plainly to the author’s amusement—contradict…[more]

Book:Men in the Off Hours

Men in the Off Hours

Anne Carson

Following her widely acclaimed Autobiography of Red (“A spellbinding achievement” —Susan Sontag), a new collection of poetry and prose that displays Anne Carson’s signature mixture of opposites—the classic and the modern, cinema and print, narrative and verse.

In Men in the Off Hours, Carson reinvents figures as diverse as Oedipus, Emily Dickinson, and Audubon. She views the writings of Sappho, St. Augustine, and Catullus through a modern lens. She sets up startling juxtapositions (Lazarus among video paraphernalia; Virginia Woolf and Thucydides discussing war). And in a final prose poem, she meditates on the recent death of her mother.

With its quiet, acute spirituality, its fearless wit and sensuality, and its joyful understanding that “the fact of the matter for humans is imperfection,” Men in the Off Hours shows us “the most exciting poet writing in English today” (Michael Ondaatje) at her best.

Book:Tiepolo's Hound

Tiepolo's Hound

Derek Walcott

From the Nobel laureate, a book-length poem on two educations in painting, a century apart

Between me and Venice the thigh of a hound;
my awe of the ordinary, because even as I write,
paused on a step of this couplet, I have never found
its image again, a hound in astounding light.

Tiepolo’s Hound joins the quests of two Caribbean men: Camille Pissarro—a Sephardic Jew born in 1830 who leaves his native St. Thomas to follow his vocation as a painter in Paris—and the poet himself, who longs to rediscover a detail—“a slash of pink on the inner thigh / of a white hound”—of a Venetian painting encountered on an early visit from St. Lucia…[more]

Book:The Year's Afternoon

The Year's Afternoon

Douglas Dunn

This collection opens with a wry elegy for three fellow Scots poets, it remembers other teachers and precursors and revisits scenes of Dunn’s earliest poems. Dunn focuses on conundrums of solitude, and the solidarity of the dreaming man in a wider world.

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