Annal: 2002 T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry

Results of the T.S. Eliot Prize in the year 2002.

Book:Dart (Alice Oswald)


Alice Oswald

Using these records and voices as a sort of poetic census, she creates a narrative of the river, tracking its life from source to sea. The voices are wonderfully varied and idiomatic—they include a poacher, a ferryman, a sewage worker and milk worker, a forester, swimmers and canoeists—and are interlinked with historic and mythic voices, drowned voices, dreaming voices and marginal notes which act as markers along the way.

Book:Between Here and There

Between Here and There

Sinéad Morrissey

In her second book of poems Sinead Morrissey’s worlds grow more diverse, encompassing the Orient, the Antipodes, America and an Ireland which recent history has changed: a country observed through eyes that travel and time have made clear, dispassionate and disabused. The poems are still hungry for grace, but in each new geographical and spiritual territory what seems promise is undermined by material and cultural reality; the ceremonies and beliefs of Japan, for example, yield the most colourful spiritual barrenness; and when the poet returns to Ireland it is with a political anger sharpened by the very directness of her vision. Her use of traditional forms is freer and more assured than ever: her wit is visual and semantic, and wonderfully nuanced in her unusual rhythms of speech.

Book:The Ice Age

The Ice Age: A Collection of Poems

Paul Farley

The new collection from one of the best new talents in contemporary poetry Paul Farley’s debut collection: The Boy from the Chemist is Here to See You was one of the most highly acclaimed in recent years. It won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection;a Somerset Maugham Award and was shortlisted for the Whitbread Poetry Award. In 1999 he was named as the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year. His collection was described as ‘a stunning debut’ by the Sunday Times.

The Ice Age sees Farley extend his range to embrace a new and philosophical seriousness. His gift is to uncover the evidence so often overlooked by less attentive observers, finding—in childhood games, dental records and dog-eared field guides—those details by which we are proven and elegised. Formally deft and dizzying in its variety, The Ice Age will consolidate Farley’s reputation as one of the most imaginative and enduring poets to have emerged in recent years.

Book:The Light Trap

The Light Trap

John Burnside

In his eighth collection, the poet looks deeply into how we see our world: the organic relationship between the environment and the unconscious, between ideas and creatures, in poems whose protagonists—from the deer in a suburban garden to the poet’s six-month-old son—are infinitely mysterious. Resonant and luminous, this is a work of intimacy and wonder from one of Britain’s most important poets.

Book:Marriage (David Harsent)


David Harsent

Marriage consists of two sequences of poems. The first is loosely based on the relationship between Pierre Bonnard and his muse and model, who became eventually his wife. It is a rich pattern for the study of the mysteries of domesticity, the unspoken privacies and intimacies that can exist between two people. For the painter, problems of seeing become, for the husband, problems of knowing. ‘Marriage’ is an inspired portrait of conjugality, exact, watchful and understated.

The second sequence, ‘Lepus’, extends an interest in the hare as trickster, traceable elsewhere in David Harsent’s work, and most recently in ‘The Woman and the Hare’, a piece commissioned by the Nashe Ensemble, set to music by Harrison Birtwistle, and first performed at the South Bank Centre in 1999.

Book:Moy Sand and Gravel

Moy Sand and Gravel: Poems

Paul Muldoon

Paul Muldoon’s ninth collection of poems, his first since Hay (1998), finds him working a rich vein that extends from the rivery, apple-heavy County Armagh of the 1950s, in which he was brought up, to suburban New Jersey, on the banks of a canal dug by Irish navvies, where he now lives. Grounded, glistening, as gritty as they are graceful, these poems seem capable of taking in almost anything, and anybody, be it a Tuareg glimpsed on the Irish border, Bessie Smith, Marilyn Monroe, Queen Elizabeth I, a hunted hare, William Tell, William Butler Yeats, Sitting Bull, Ted Hughes, an otter, a fox, Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Joscelyne, un unearthed pit pony, a loaf of bread, an outhouse, a killdeer, Oscar Wilde, or a flock of redknots. At the heart of the book is an elegy for a miscarried child, and that elegiac tone predominates, particularly in the elegant remaking of Yeats’s “A Prayer for My Daughter” with which the book concludes, where a welter of traffic signs and slogans, along with the spirits of admen, hardware storekeepers, flimflammers, fixers, and other forebears, are borne along by a hurricane-swollen canal, and private grief coincides with some of the gravest matter of our age.

Book:The Orchards of Syon

The Orchards of Syon

Geoffrey Hill

In the words of the magazine Poetry Review, a kind of late fury has gripped Geoffrey Hill in recent years after a decade’s silence, with Canaan (1996), The Love Triumph (1998), Speech! Speech! (2001), and now this new volume. All these books are driven by a profound quarrel with the modern world. This new book consists of 72 numbered poems, each of 24 lines. Together they make up a kind of Dantean eclogue in which the landscape of Hill’s youth—rural Worcestershire—offers a glimpse of paradise in the midst of the modern world. This is a major poet writing serious, beautiful poetry.

Book:A Rough Climate

A Rough Climate

E.A. Markham

The ‘rough climate’ of the title reflects the encroaching unease that many people feel about the circumstances of their lives. In his seventh collection (and his first for seven years) E.A. Markham draws attention to the euphemisms and other abuses of language which help to coarsen this climate.

As well as poems about his native Montserrat, focusing on the devastating effect of the volcano, there are poems on many aspects of life in England and Europe, and two entertaining, partly autobiographical prose pieces, ‘Taking the Drawing Room through Customs’ and ‘In Other Words’, which also make an informal commentary on the background to the poems.

Book:The Universal Home Doctor

The Universal Home Doctor

Simon Armitage

As the title implies, Simon Armitage’s flesh-and-blood account of numerous personal journeys reads like a private encyclopaedia of emotion and health. Vivid and engaged, the poems range from the rainforests of South America to the deserts of Western Australia, but are set against the ultimate and most intimate of all landscapes, the human body. Equally, the body politic comes into question, through subtle enquiries into Englishness and the idea of home.

Book:Voodoo Shop

Voodoo Shop

Ruth Padel

The fifth and best collection of poetry from the award-winning author of Rembrandt Would Have Loved You.

Beginning with a love letter and ending with a haunting meditation on departure and migration, Voodoo Shop takes the reader on a series of spectacular journeys across the world. Tori Amos chooses a piano in Vienna; Bridget Riley argues about art in a Venetian piazza; lovers buy each other voodoo dolls in Rio. The poems are separate dramatic scenarios with a strikingly varied cast of characters, but taken all together, they enact a single love story.

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