After four previous appearances on the shortlist for the TS Eliot prize for poetry, David Harsent has finally taken the honour for his 11th collection of poems, Fire Songs. He was described by the chair of the judging panel, the poet and novelist Helen Dunmore, as “a poet for dark and dangerous days”.
She added: “Fire Songs plumbs language and emotion with technical brilliance and prophetic power.”
Although Harsent, professor of creative writing at the University of Roehampton, who also worked extensively with the composer Sir Harrison Birtwistle, picked up a hat full of awards for earlier collections, including the Forward Prize for Legion in 2005, and Night in 2011 which won the Griffin Poetry Prize and was shortlisted for many other prizes, this was a particularly gratifying year to take the Oscar of his profession.
Not only was he competing against a particularly strong field, with seven previously shortlisted poets and three previous winners – John Burnside, Michael Longley and Hugo Williams – on the shortlist, the cash value of the prize was increased this year to £20,000 from £15,000 to mark the 50th anniversary this month of the death of TS Eliot.
When the prize was announced at a ceremony at the Wallace Collection gallery, there was good news for the other poets too – including two newcomers to the competition, Fiona Benson and Kevin Powers – as the runner up prizes have also been increased to £1,500 each. (…) / Maev Kennedy, The Guardian