Annal: 2001 T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry

Results of the T.S. Eliot Prize in the year 2001.

Book:The Beauty of the Husband

The Beauty of the Husband: A Fictional Essay in 29 Tangos

Anne Carson

The Beauty Of The Husband is an essay on Keats’s idea that beauty is truth, and is also the story of a marriage. It is told in 29 tangos. A tango (like a marriage) is something you have to dance to the end.

This clear-eyed, brutal, moving, darkly funny book tells a single story in an immediate, accessible voice–29 “tangos” of narrative verse that take us vividly through erotic, painful, and heartbreaking scenes from a long-time marriage that falls apart. Only award-winning poet Anne Carson could create a work that takes on the oldest of lyrical subjects—love—and make it this powerful, this fresh, this devastating.

Book:The Age of Cardboard and String

The Age of Cardboard and String

Charles Boyle

A number of poems in this new collection take their cue from Stendhal, whose characteristic blend of artfulness and candour—particularly evident in his unreliable memoirs—is sustained throughout the book. In material ranging form intimate narratives to social commentary. Boyle takes self-deception, mixed motives and honest misunderstandings as the norms of human behaviour, and delights in the comedy of errors that results.



Selima Hill

Selima Hill’s Bunny is set in the haunted house of adolescence. Always blackly comic, sometimes beguilingly erotic, each echoing poem opens a door on madness or menace, shame or blame. Bunny tells the intimate story of a young girl growing up in London in the 1950s, confused and betrayed but finding herself, becoming independent.

Appearances are always deceptive. That predatory lodger. The animals outside and within. The girl sectioned in the hospital, nursing her sense of wrong. The blueness of things. The fire.

What the house contains, it cannot hide. The poems reveal not only what was papered over but what she learned. About how to be a woman. How to be loved. And what happens to innocence.

Book:Burning Babylon

Burning Babylon

Michael Symmons Roberts

In his first two collections—Soft Keys and Raising Sparks—Michael Symmons Roberts established himself as a lyric and dramatic poet with metaphysical concerns. In this new collection, those concerns are as strong as ever, but rooted in a specific place and time. These poems describe the personal and public rise and fall of Greenham Common. The public story, as one of the most contentious missile bases of the cold war, ended with fences removed, buildings demolished, the base returned to common land. The private history emerges from the poet’s own experience, as an adolescent living a mile away from Greenham Common at the height of its powers. That third community of locals—not the USAF or the peace camps—is finally given a voice in Burning Babylon.This is war poetry, but from an undeclared war in which battle lines were unclear, secrecy was an obsession, and threat was the chief weapon. At the heart of it all was that real and mythic gated city—the base—which was both a key part…[more]

Book:Downriver (Sean O'Brien)


Sean O'Brien

While Downriver contains the English urban pastoral and hymns to the Northern deities for which Sean O’Brien is justly celebrated, the poet has always been more a singer then even his many admirers have sometimes conceded: here, that lyric note is sounded more openly than ever before.

With Downriver, his fifth collection, O’Brien has produced his most various and mature work yet. This is a poetry of both delicacy and gravity, assuagement as well as agitation, rivers that start in hell but later fall as rain—and will only strengthen his reputation as one of the most gifted English poets at work today.

Book:Electric Light

Electric Light

Seamus Heaney

Electric Light travels widely in time and space, visiting the sites of the classical world, revisiting the poet’s childhood: rural electrification and the light of ancient evenings are reconciled within the orbit of a single lifetime. This is a book about origins (not least the origins of words) and oracles: the places where things start from, the ground of understanding—whether in Arcadia or Anahorish, the sanctuary at Epidaurus or the Bann valley in County Derry.Electric Light ranges from short takes (‘glosses’) to conversation poems whose cunning passagework gives rein to ‘the must and drift of talk’; other poems are arranged in sections, their separate cargoes docked alongside each other to reveal a hidden and curative connection. The presocratic wisdom that everything flows is held in tension with the fixities of remembrance: elegising friends and fellow poets, naming ‘the real names’ of contemporaries behind the Shakespearean roles they played at school. These gifts of recollection renew the poet’s calling to assign to things their proper names. The resulting poems are full of delicately prescriptive tonalities, where Heaney can be heard extending his word-hoard and rollcall in this, his eleventh collection.

Book:Landscape with Chainsaw

Landscape with Chainsaw: Poems

James Lasdun

An exuberant and bold series of poems drawing on the poet’s life in the Catskill Mountains. Questions of exile and belonging figure prominently, as does the struggle to find a viable relationship with the natural world. In the chainsaw—the book’s central image—all manner of human traits are reflected with an intense, often comical brilliance.

Book:Lintel (Gillian Allnutt)


Gillian Allnutt

This text gives the reader poems of the threshold; poems that stand at the edge, looking back as well as forward; poems that arise out of known, imagined and imaginary places, such as the landscape of ‘Tabitha and Lintel’.

Book:Speech! Speech!

Speech! Speech!

Geoffrey Hill

Excruciatingly comic, Speech! Speech! is also that rarest of things: a tour de force that is tragic. As imperious as the King, forever issuing commands, and as perilously ingenious in rejoinder as the Fool, the voices of Geoffrey Hill vie to outjest each other-outrage each other-yet also to soothe implacable injuries. Whose injuries, exactly? To some degree (third degree), the poet’s own-but not his alone, yours too, gentle reader. In its ferocity and love, in its glimpses of timeless beauty, even in the praises it bestows (upon the savage farce of Daumier, or the dear measure of Holst, or the clear-eyed endurance of Balzac), it is a supreme “how to” book. How to be (or at least how to begin the process of being) honest. In speech, for a start. With a poem for each of the 120 days of Sodom, it may go too far-but then, as T.S. Eliot said, it is only by going too far that you find out how far you can go. This is History (and yet how different from Robert Lowell’s unrolling) and these are Dream Songs (and as nightmarishly just as John Berryman’s visions). Not self-expression, but self-explosion. A challenge to all concerned.

Book:The Zoo Father

The Zoo Father

Pascale Petit

Second collection from the poet of powerful emotions and vivid imagery, The Zoo Father underlines the author’s reputation as a questing poet capable of outstanding imagistic flourishes and surprising associations. This extraordinary and powerful volume is comprised of two sections, the first about with the poet’s relationship with her father, the second with her mother.

Section One is heavily imbued with imagery of the poet’s travels in South America and her researches in the cultures and ecology of the Venezuelan. Pain, anger, bewilderment are refracted through a rich, often sensual imagery of fauna, hallucinatory drugs and tribal beliefs. This gives the poems their originality, and prevents subject matter of childhood abandonment and abuse becoming too harrowing. The imagery adapted from shamanistic beliefs is especially memorable. …[more]

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