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Two Poets Withdraw From Literary Award Due to Corporate Sponsorship

Read more from G&A: The Contest Blog

A blog from: Poets & Writers Magazine

Posted by Prize Reporter on 12.07.11

About six weeks after the announcement of the finalists for this year's T. S. Eliot Prize, a fifteen-thousand-pound award (approximately $23,500) given for a poetry collection, two poets have dropped off the shortlist. Australian writer John Kinsella followed British poet Alice Oswald, who won the award in 2002, in withdrawing from the running, both taking issue with the recently-established partnership of the Poetry Book Society, the prize administrator, with Aurum, an investment firm. Aurum signed on earlier this fall for a three-year sponsorship of the prize after the Poetry Book Society got word that it would lose funding from England's Arts Council effective in 2012.

"I am grateful to Alice Oswald for bringing the sponsorship of the T. S. Eliot Prize to my attention," said Kinsella, shortlisted for Armour, in a statement issued by Picador, his publisher. "I regret that I must do this at a particularly difficult time for the Poetry Book Society but the business of Aurum does not sit with my personal politics and ethics."

Oswald, shortlisted for her book Memorial (Faber and Faber), withdrew on Tuesday, citing Aurum's involvement in the management of hedge funds. "I think poetry should be questioning not endorsing such institutions," she said.

Following Oswald's announcement, Chris Holifield, director of the Poetry Book Society, said the poet would not be replaced on the shortlist with another contender. "It's too late to do that, which is unfortunate as there were other good people who would have liked to be on the shortlist," she told the Guardian. The Guardian reported that the Poetry Book Society declined to comment on Kinsella's withrawal.

Remaining on the shortlist are John Burnside's Black Cat Bone (Jonathan Cape), Carol Ann Duffy's The Bees (Picador), Leontia Flynn's Profit and Loss (Jonathan Cape), David Harsent's Night (Faber and Faber), Esther Morgan's Grace (Bloodaxe Books), Daljit Nagra's Tippoo Sultan's Incredible White-Man-Eating Tiger Toy-Machine!!! (Faber and Faber), Sean O'Brien's November (Picador), and Bernard O'Donoghue's Farmer's Cross (Faber and Faber). The winner will be announced on January 16.

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