When it comes to poetry prizes, none are bigger than the T.S. Eliot - the Oscars of the poetry world. Poets would give their eyeteeth to win a place on the coveted shortlist of the ten best books of the year, while scooping the top prize of £15,000 is the ultimate accolade.
The award is given annually to the writer of the best new poetry collection published in the UK or Ireland and this year the top ten were whittled down from a list of 113 collections by judges Ian Duhig, Vicki Feaver andImtiaz Dharker.
However, the T.S. Eliot Prize reaches beyond fame, fortune and poetic acclaim. It is the one of the few times in the year when poetry breaks out of its relatively narrow readership and into the mainstream cultural arena. Shortlisted poets are read on Radio 4 in the run-up to the readings, and the national press prick up their ears and take note.
In the past decade, the T.S. Eliot Prize has grown and grown until it now packs out the Royal Festival Hall, making it the largest annual poetry event in the UK.
This popularity is testament to a shortlist that offers a definitive guide to simply the best poets writing today. From the deft lyricism of Helen Mortto the elemental power of Robin Robertson to the super sonnets of Forward Prize winner Michael Simmons Roberts; all poets on the shortlist have something new to say about how it is to live in the world, and all say it with aplomb.
Best of all, the readings offer a unique chance to hear each poet, reading their own work in their own voice, for around ten minutes. It is a curiously intimate experience, despite the size of the venue, to hear poems from a printed page come alive in front of you, direct from the mouth and heart of their creator.
The winner of the 2013 Prize will be announced at a private Award Ceremony on Monday 13 January 2014.
These readings really are not to be missed for anyone in love with language or simply curious about the world. You don’t have to count yourself as a poetry lover to find words that will move, entertain and resonate. We highly recommend booking yourself a seat for this landmark literary event now before every ticket is sold.