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Eighty-One-Year-Old Poet Wins T. S. Eliot Poetry Prize

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A blog from: Poets & Writers Magazine

Posted by Prize Reporter on 1.24.11

Today the widow of T. S. Eliot awarded the annual prize given to honor a poetry book published in the previous year. Eighty-one-year-old Derek Walcott received the fifteen-thousand-pound prize for White Egrets (Farrar, Straus and Giroux).

The Nobel laureate, who was compared last year to Eliot in the New York Times Book Review, was accompanied on the shortlist by Simon Armitage, nominated for Seeing Stars (Faber); Annie Freud for The Mirabelles (Picador); John Haynes for You (Seren); fellow Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney for Human Chain (Farrar, Straus and Giroux); Pascale Petit for What the Water Gave Me (Seren); Robin Robertson for The Wrecking Light (Mariner Books); Fiona Sampson for Rough Music (Carcanet Press); Brian Turner for Phantom Noise (Alice James Books); and Sam Willetts for New Light for the Old Dark (Jonathan Cape).

"More than almost any other contemporary poet, Derek Walcott might seem to be fulfilling T. S. Eliot’s program for poetry," poet Karl Kirchwey writes in his NYTBR review of White Egrets last April. "He has distinguished himself in all of what Eliot described as the 'three voices of poetry': the lyric, the narrative or epic, and the dramatic."

The judges expressed similar sentiments. "It took us not very long to decide that this collection was the yardstick by which all the others were to be measured," said chair of judges Anne Stevenson, whose was joined by Bernardine Evaristo and Michael Symmons Roberts. "These are beautiful lines; beautiful poetry."

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