"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)
Photo: BBC
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Why you should watch BBC3's This Country

The show is a masterclass in the idiosyncrasies triggered by rustic boredom.

“In rural Britain today, studies show that young people feel more marginalised than ever. To explore this problem, the BBC spent six months filming with some young people in a typical Cotswold village.”

These words appear over cute aerial shots of Northleach, Gloucestershire, in the opening moments of the BBC3 mockumentary, This Country, which has just been confirmed for a second season. Cut to cousins Kerry and “Kurtan” Mucklowe, both clearly in their late 20s, squabbling like children over the top shelf in the oven or pointing out where they experienced such thrilling celebrity sightings as Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen.

Written by brother and sister Daisy May Cooper and Charlie Cooper, who also play the leads, This Country is a masterclass in the idiosyncrasies triggered by rustic boredom. “I’ve got enemies in South Cerney, I’ve got enemies in North Cerney, I’ve got enemies in Cerney Wick,” Kerry boasts in her broad Gloucestershire accent. “Oh, having a picture of your winning scarecrow on the front of the Gazette is sad, is it?” Kurtan says sarcastically.

I tell myself that, as a Gloucestershire girl, This Country speaks to me because I’m in on jokes about how “it takes Gramps four hours to drive from Gloucester”, but the fact is it’s just really, really funny. Kerry and Kurtan are ridiculous but, based on Daisy and Charlie and their real experience of financial struggle on moving back to Cirencester, they are drawn with love.

“You’ve just got to live in the moment and appreciate what’s around you,” Kurtan philosophises. “Because while you’re pining for Noel Edmonds’s House Party, you’re missing out on Alan Carr’s Chatty Man.” Don’t miss out on This Country

“This Country” is on iPlayer until 6 August

Anna Leszkiewicz is a pop culture writer at the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 27 July 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Summer double issue