Annal: 2012 T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry

Results of the T.S. Eliot Prize in the year 2012.

Book:Stag's Leap: Poems

Stag's Leap: Poems

Sharon Olds

In this wise and intimate new book, Sharon Olds tells the story of a divorce, embracing strands of love, sex, sorrow, memory, and new freedom.

As she carries us through the seasons when her marriage was ending, Olds opens her heart to the reader, sharing the feeling of invisibility that comes when we are no longer standing in love’s sight; the surprising physical bond that still exists between a couple during parting; the loss of everything from her husband’s smile to the set of his hip; the radical change in her sense of place in the world. Olds is naked before us, curious and brave and even generous toward the man who was her mate for thirty years and who now loves another woman. As she writes in the remarkable “Stag’s Leap,” “When anyone escapes, my heart / leaps up.  Even when it’s I who am escaped from, / I am half on the side of the leaver.” Olds’s propulsive poetic line and…[more]

Book:Bee Journal: Poetry

Bee Journal: Poetry

Sean Borodale

Bee Journal is a startlingly original poetry sequence: a poem-journal of beekeeping that chronicles the life of the hive, from the collection of a small nucleus on the first day to the capture of a swarm two years later. It observes the living architecture of the comb, the range and locality of the colony; its flights, flowers, water sources, parasites, lives and deaths.

These poems were written at the hive wearing a veil and gloves, and the journal is an intrinsic part of the kinetic activity of keeping bees: making ‘tiny, regular checks’ in the turn around the central figure of the sun, and minute exploratory interventions through the round of the year. The book is full of moments of revelation—particularly of the relationship between the domestic and the wild. In attempting to record and invoke something of the complexity of the relationship between ‘keeper’ and ‘kept’ it tunes ear and speech towards the ecstasy of bees, between the known and the unknown. Because of its genesis as…[more]

Book:Burying the Wren

Burying the Wren

Deryn Rees-Jones

Alive to the world and the transformative qualities of love, the poems in this collection concern emotions and relationships. Utilizing a clear and mature vision, the poet lyrically expresses experiences concerning love and family. Skillfully pitting the ordinary yet mysterious “small things” of the universe, such as flowers, against loss, these poems also elegize the poet’s late husband, poet and critic Michael Murphy.

Book:The Dark Film

The Dark Film

Paul Farley

Paul Farley’s keenly awaited new collection is his first since the highly acclaimed Tramp in Flames in 2006. The Dark Film expands Farley’s research into ‘the art of seeing’, and all that humans project of themselves into the world. Farley’s great poetic gift is his ability to switch between the local and the universal, the present and the historical past, with the most apparently effortless of gear changes, bringing to our immediate attention things previously hidden—whether out of sight, in the periphery of our vision, or right under our noses. The Dark Film is a profound meditation on time, on the untold stories of our history, and on the act of human beholding—as well as being Farley’s most richly entertaining collection to date.

Book:The Death of King Arthur: A New Verse Translation

The Death of King Arthur: A New Verse Translation

Simon Armitage

King Arthur comes to vivid life in this gripping poetic translation by the renowned poet and translator.

First appearing around 1400, The Alliterative Morte Arthure, or, The Death of King Arthur, is one of the most widely beloved and spectacularly alliterative poems ever penned in Middle English. Now, from the internationally acclaimed translator of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, comes this magisterial new presentation of the Arthurian tale, rendered in unflinching and gory detail. Following Arthur’s bloody conquests across the cities and fields of Europe, all the way to his spectacular and even bloodier fall, this masterpiece features some of the most spellbinding and poignant passages in English poetry. Never before have the deaths of Arthur’s loyal knights, his own final hours, and the subsequent burial been so poignantly evoked.

Echoing the lyrical passion that so distinguished Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf, Simon Armitage has produced a virtuosic new translation that promises to become both the literary event of the year and the definitive edition for generations to come.

Book:The Havocs

The Havocs

Jacob Polley

A daring new collection from one of poetry’s rising stars.

Little Gods established Jacob Polley as one of the leading talents of the younger generation; his third collection sees him extend that gift in often wholly unexpected directions. As before, Polley’s work is often unashamedly lyric, and displays a virtuosic range of form and address. However, the light has changed in The Havocs: these poems are often imbued with the weird, uncanny and otherworldly, drawing on the folkloric and mythic traditions of north Britain—as well as forms from older English traditions, including riddles and cautionary tales. However oblique his strategies, Polley’s work remains fixed on our most central concerns: our losses of faith, our working lives, our irrational fears and our loves. The Havocs charts a daring new turn in the work of one of our finest English poets.

Book:Ice (Gillian Clarke)

Ice

Gillian Clarke

The European winters of 2009 and 2010 serve as inspiration for the evocative poems in this collection that anxiously yet joyfully unite the seasons and creatures of the planet. The extremity of those record-setting winters in the UK redefined all seasons for the poet, and her notion that nature asserted itself and renewed the environment for the imagination is conveyed in poems such as “Polar,” in which a polar bear rug transforms personal and ecological longing into a creative act. The compilation presents commissioned pieces written during the author’s time as National Poet of Wales, including poems for Haiti and Guardian features for Christmas and Valentine’s Day.

Book:The Overhaul: Poetry

The Overhaul: Poetry

Kathleen Jamie

The Overhaul is Kathleen Jamie’s first collection since the award-winning The Tree House, and it broadens her poetic range considerably. The Overhaul continues Jamie’s lyric enquiry into the aspects of the world our rushing lives elide, and even threaten. Whether she is addressing birds or rivers, or the need to accept loss, or sometimes, the desire to escape our own lives, her work is earthy and rigorous, her language at once elemental and tender. As an essayist, she has frequently queried our human presence in the world with the question ‘How are we to live?’ Here, this is answered more personally than ever. The Overhaul is a mid-life book of repair, restitution, and ultimately hope—of the wisest and most worldly kind.

Book:Place: New Poems

Place: New Poems

Jorie Graham

In Place, Graham explores the ways in which our imagination, intuition, and experience—increasingly devalued by a culture that regards them as “mere” subjectivity—aid us in navigating a world moving blindly towards its own annihilation and a political reality where the human person and its dignity are increasingly disposable. Throughout, Graham seeks out sites of wakeful resistance and achieved presence. From the natural world to human sensation, the poems test the unstable congeries of the self, and the creative tensions that exist within and between our inner and outer landscapes—particularly as these are shaped by language.

Beginning with a poem dated June 5th, placed on Omaha Beach, in Normandy—the anniversary of the day before the “historical” events of June 6th—Place is made up of meditations written in a uneasy lull before an unknowable, potentially…[more]

Book:The World's Two Smallest Humans: Poetry

The World's Two Smallest Humans: Poetry

Julia Copus

Julia Copus’ poems bring humanity and light to some of our most intimate and solitary moments, repeatedly breathing life into loss. In two previous collections, she has been feted as among the most compelling poets to have emerged in recent years; now, in The World’s Two Smallest Humans, she is writing at her most captivating yet.

These finely tuned poems are the fruit of her upbringing in a musical family, an affinity with the Classics, a fascination with the arc of time, and an unflinching scrutiny of love and personal relationships. Born out of a powerful sense of place, the poems navigate through a beguiling sequence of interior and exterior landscapes, whether revisiting Ovid, negotiating the perils of one composer’s attempt to step into the shoes of another or describing, from shifting perspectives, a young girl’s escape from suburban ennui. The book concludes with a moving arrangement of pieces that explore the author’s experience of IVF: poems…[more]

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