Hear the poets shortlisted for the 2019 TS Eliot Prize

Tuesday, January 8, 2019 - 16:07

The TS Eliot Prize was once described by the former Poet Laureate Sir Andrew Motion as ‘the Prize most poets want to win.’ Inaugurated in 1993 to celebrate the Poetry Book Society’s 40th birthday – and to honour its founding poet – the annual prize is awarded for the best new poetry collection published in the UK or Ireland.

The first major highlight of the 2019 literary calendar, the Prize is judged by a panel of established poets who this year comprise of 2013 winner Sinéad Morrissey, Daljit Nagra and Clare Pollard. The ten poets of this year’s shortlist will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of past victors, such as Carol Ann Duffy, Alice Oswald and Seamus Heaney.

Ahead of the announcement of this year’s prize all ten nominees joined us at Southbank Centre to give a reading of their work in a special evening hosted by the poet Ian McMillan. Take a look at the ten shortlisted poets, and hear each recite from their collections, below.

Ailbhe Darcy

Insistence (Bloodaxe)

Ailbhe Darcy reads 'After my son was born'

Born in Dublin in 1981 has taught at the University of Notre Dame in the US, and the University of Münster in Germany and currently lectures in Creative Writing at Cardiff University. Imaginary Menagerie (Bloodaxe, 2011), her first book-length collection, was shortlisted for Ireland’s dlr Strong Award at Poetry Now / Mountains to Sea. Insistence, also published by Bloodace is her second collection.


Terrance Hayes

American Sonnets for my Past and Future Assassins (Penguin)

Terrance Hayes reads 'My mother says I am beautiful inside'

Terrance Hayes is the author of Lighthead, winner of the 2010 National Book Award and finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His 2015 poetry collection How To Be Drawn was also a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award. Hayes is co-director of the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics, a professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh, and poetry editor at The New York Times Magazine.


Zaffar Kunial

Us (Faber)

Zaffar Kunial reads 'The Word'

Born in Birmingham to an English mother and a Kashmiri father Zaffar Kunial now lives in Hebden Bridge. In 2014 he was the Wordsworth Trust Poet-in-Residence and published a pamphlet in the Faber New Poets series. Kunial won the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize in 2014 for his poem The Word and was Poet-in-Residence at the 2018 Ledbury Poetry Festival. Us (Faber, 2018) is his first collection.


Nick Laird

Feel Free (Faber)

Nick Laird reads 'The Vehicle and the Tenor'

Born in County Tyrone in 1975, Nick Laird is a poet, novelist, screenwriter, and former lawyer. His poetry collections (all Faber) are To a Fault, which won the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize, On Purpose, which won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize and Somerset Maugham Prize, Go Giants and Feel Free. His has published three novels, Utterly Monkey, Glover’s Mistake and Modern Gods and is currently Writer-in-Residence at New York University.


Fiona Moore

This Distal Point (HappenStance)

Fiona Moore reads 'Night Letter'

In 2004 Fiona Moore left her career in the Foreign Office to write and work part-time for a sustainable development NGO. The first of her two HappenStance pamphlets, The Only Reason for Time, was a Guardian poetry book of the year and the second, Night Letter, was shortlisted for the Michael Marks Award for Poetry Pamphlets. The Distal Point (HappenStance, 2018) is her first collection.


Sean O’Brien

Europa (Picador)

Sean O'Brien reads 'You are Now Entering Europa'

Born in London in 1952 Sean O’Brien grew up in Hull and now lives in Newcastle where he is a Professor of Creative Writing. He has published nine poetry collections including three Forward Prize for Poetry winners; Ghost Train (Oxford University Press, 1995), Downriver (Picador, 2001) and The Drowned Book (Picador, 2007), the latter of which also won the TS Eliot Prize. His 2011 collection November (Picador), was also was shortlisted for both the TS Eliot Prize and the Forward Prize.


Phoebe Power

Shrines of Upper Austria (Carcanet)

Phoebe Power reads 'Children'

York’s Phoebe Power was a winner of the Foyle Young Poets in 2009, received an Eric Gregory Award in 2012 and a Northern Writers’ Award in 2014. Her poems have been published in journals and anthologies including The Rialto, Oxford Poetry and The White Review. Shrines of Upper Austria, her debut collection, was the winner of the 2018 Forward Prize for Best First Collection. 


Richard Scott

Soho (Faber)

Richard Scott reads 'crocodile'

Born in Wimbledon in 1981 Richard Scott studied to be an opera singer at the Royal College of Music and at Goldsmiths College before turning to poetry. A past winner of the Wasafiri New Writing Prize, his pamphlet Wound (Rialto) won the Michael Marks Poetry Award in 2016 and his poem crocodile won the 2017 Poetry London Competition. Soho (Faber 2018) is his first collection.


Tracy K. Smith

Wader in the Water (Penguin)

Tracy K. Smith reads 'Wade in the Water'

Born in Massachusetts and raised in northern California, Tracy K. Smith was named Poet Laureate of the United States in 2017. She has published four poetry collections; The Body’s Question (2003), Duende (2007), Life on Mars (2011), for which she won the Pulitzer Prize, and Wade in the Water (Penguin, 2018). Smith is also the author of a memoir, Ordinary Light, which was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2015. 


Hannah Sullivan

Three Poems (Faber)

Hannah Sullivan reads from 'Three Poems'

Born in Ealing, West London Hannah Sullivan studied Classics at Cambridge, received her PhD in English from Harvard in 2008, and taught as an Assistant Professor at Stanford. Her study The Work of Revision, which examined how modernist approaches to rewriting shaped literary style, was published in 2013 and awarded the Rose Mary Crawshay Prize by the British Academy. Three Poems (Faber, 2018) is her first poetry collection.



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