"Stag's Leap" wins T S Eliot's poetry prize

Sharon Olds becomes the first American woman to win the prestigious poetry award.

Sharon Olds has become the first female American poet to win the prestigious T S Eliot Prize for poetry.

Stag’s Leap, which intimately explores the end of marriage, was selected from 131 submissions to clinch the £15,000 award.

The T S Eliot Prize, which is celebrating its twentieth anniversary, is considered the most valuable and prestigious of its kind in the UK for a new collection of poetry.

This year’s all-poet judging panel included poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, Michael Longley and David Morely.

Presenting the award at the Wallace Collection, Duffy said: “My fellow judges Michael Longley, David Morely and I were proud of the freshness, skill and authority exhibited in this year’s shortlist.

“From over 130 collections we were particularly impressed by the strong presence of women on the list and were unanimous in awarding the 2012 T S Eliot Prize to Sharon Olds’ Stag’s Leap, a tremendous book of grace and gallantry which crowns the career of a world class poet.”

The shortlist, each of which received £1,000, featured: Simon Armitage, Sean Borodale, Gillian Clarke, Paul Farley, Jorie Graham, Kathleen Jamie, Jacob Polley, Deryn Rees-Jones and Julia Copus, whose poetry and writing has featured in the New Statesman.

 

T S Eliot and Valerie Eliot in 1958 (Getty Images)
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“Minoan pendant”: a new poem by Mark Granier

“Yes – I press my nose / to the pleasantly warm glass – / it’s a copy of one I saw / cased in the cool museum”

Yes – I press my nose
to the pleasantly warm glass –
it’s a copy of one I saw
cased in the cool museum –
gold beaten to honey, a grainy
oval dollop, flanked by two
slim symmetrical bees –

garland for a civilisation’s
rise and collapse, eye-dropped
five thousand years: a flash
of evening sun on a windscreen
or wing mirror – Heraklion’s
scooter-life buzzing and humming –

as I step in to browse, become
mesmerised by the warm
dark eyes of the woman
who gives her spiel and moves
softly and with such grace,
that, after leaving, I hesitate

a moment on the pavement
then re-enter with a question
I know not to ask, but ask
anyway, to hear her voice
soften even more as she smiles
and shakes her hair – no.

Mark Granier is an Irish poet and photographer. He is the author of four collections of poetry, most recently Haunt (Salmon).

This article first appeared in the 16 June 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Britain on the brink