Annal: 2007 T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry

Results of the T.S. Eliot Prize in the year 2007.

Book:The Drowned Book

The Drowned Book

Sean O'Brien

Many of the poems in Sean O’Brien’s new collection take their emotional tenor and imaginative cue from his acclaimed translation of Dante’s Inferno, and occupy a dark, flooded, subterranean world, as dramatically compelling as it is disquieting. Circumstances have compelled O’Brien to return repeatedly to the elegiac form, and The Drowned Book contains a number of powerfully moving poems written in memory of fellow poets and artists.

The Drowned Book again shows O’Brien a master of the authoritative line, and underscores his pre-eminence among contemporary English poets.

Book:Black Moon (Matthew Sweeney)

Black Moon

Matthew Sweeney

Negotiating the borders and hinterlands of Central and Eastern Europe—with occasional coracle trips or forays to Antarctica for a round of golf—the homesick flaneur surveys the surrounding devastation with the same mixture of fascination and alarm he feels when he discovers the sweat-mark on his T-shirt makes a perfect map of Ireland. All around, he sees natural and man-made catastrophe: the ruins and remnants of war peopled by kidnappers and assassins, feral dogs, death squads, the dispossessed and deracinated. These poems are parables of threat, parties for the end of the world; they speak eloquently of damage, displacement and the resulting swell of terror: ‘I looked back at the door heard the lock click, then beyondanother lock, then another.’

Book:A Book of Lives

A Book of Lives

Edwin Morgan

Containing poems written by Edwin Morgan during the past six years, this collection looks at human life from a variety of perspectives, encompassing a range of themes, the foremost of which is history. This new work displays the author’s characteristic willingness to experiment with a variety of subjects, from the history of cancer to the new Scottish parliament.

Book:Common Prayer

Common Prayer

Fiona Sampson

Inspired by the violent landscape of 20th-century central Europe, this collection of formal sonnets, homages, narrative fiction, and lyrical reflections focuses predominantly on the relationship of human illness and bereavement to depleted ecology. Employing linguistic risk, transgressive range, and intellectual demand as well as visceral emotional content, these poems elicit both liturgical and sensual truths.

Book:Hawks and Doves

Hawks and Doves

Alan Gillis

Many of the poems in Hawks and Doves are in transit, by car or by foot, coming or going, their personae wondering ‘what to do, who to be, the way things are’. They shift swiftly, but uneasily, between what’s outside the door and what’s on-screen: between Belfast with its processes of ‘normalization’, and a wider world riven by conflict, poverty and environmental havoc. Many deal with families, parenthood and responsibility—with the hawks and doves that circle the home, the heart, and the head. Exuberant love poems mingle with scabrous parodies of self-satisfied apathy and masculine aggression. In their formal virtuosity, linguistic incandescence and imaginative intelligence, these poems are deeply affecting and often searing examinations of the world in which we’re living. Ending with major pieces that traverse the waste and beauty of our time, Hawks and Doves is an unforgettable trip.

Book:The Meanest Flower

The Meanest Flower

Mimi Khalvati

Inspired by Shakespeare’s songs, the short poems of Emily Dickinson, and Wordsworth’s Lucy poems, this collection of songlike poetry is based on the ubiquitous spread of weeds—like the shallow rooting plants, small poems can grow anywhere. Featuring a number of traditional forms but also showcasing the ancient Persian Ghazal, these poems reinstate the joyful audible aspect of the lyric.

Book:Pessimism for Beginners

Pessimism for Beginners

Sophie Hannah

Sophie Hannah’s sharp pen dissects modern life and relationships with insouciant honesty and ruthless wit, and her love poems evoke timeless feelings with a shrewd simplicity that deepens her range. An edge of desolation, tenderness—an occasional flash of cruelty—and an ebullient delight in language make this a book of bittersweet pleasures.

Book:The Pomegranates of Kandahar

The Pomegranates of Kandahar

Sarah Maguire

Sarah Maguire’s rich and lyrical poems have been highly praised for the ease with which they ground precise, sensual detail within the wider context of world events. In this remarkable new collection, her poems travel greater distances than ever before. The title poem laments the devastation visited upon Afghanistan following decades of war. Other poems consider the casualties of political unrest: would-be migrants in Tangiers gazing northwards at the longed-for phantasmagoria of ‘Europe’; and packs of wolves on the loose in post-Soviet Kazakhstan. But there are intimate poems too, often using scientific vocabularies to offset a personal moment, as in ‘Landscape, with Dead Sea’ where the erosion of the poet’s skin is connected to geological transformations at the earth’s core.

Book:Public Dream

Public Dream

Frances Leviston

Public Dream, Frances Leviston’s first collection of poetry, is one of the most eagerly-awaited debuts in years. Although still in her early twenties, Leviston has already received considerable acclaim for her superbly-crafted and pitch-perfect verse. However, in the apparently effortless balancing of its lyric and metaphysical concerns, in the penetration, range and originality of its thought, Public Dream shows her to possess the maturity to match that skill. This book does more than merely display promise: it announces the arrival of a singular and essential new voice.

Book:The Speed of Dark (Duhig)

The Speed of Dark

Ian Duhig

Ian Duhig’s The Speed of Dark is structured around his astonishing reworking of the text of Le Roman de Fauvel, a medieval text that railed against the corruption of the 12th-century French court and church. In Duhig’s hands, however, the tale of the power-mad horse-king Fauvel gains a terrifying and almost prophetic contemporary relevance, and is identified with more recent crusades, crazed ambitions and insatiable greeds. Elsewhere Duhig’s many admirers will be delighted by his new ballads and elegies, his erudite high jinks and his low gags—with which he builds on the new imaginative territory he staked out in The Lammas Hireling to such universal acclaim. The Speed of Dark again shows Duhig as one the most capacious and brilliant minds in contemporary poetry.

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