Thursday, 22 October 2009

Stop Press: Burning of the Books on Eliot Prize Shortlist

I have known about The Burning of the Books and Other Poems being on the shortlist for a few days but it has gone to the press now. I am, of course, delighted. The press release goes:

Judges Simon Armitage (Chair), Colette Bryce and Penelope Shuttle have chosen the following 10 collections from the 98 new books published in 2009:

Eiléan Ní Chuilleánain - The Sun-fish Gallery
Fred D'Aguiar - Continental Shelf Carcanet
Jane Draycott - Over Carcanet
Philip Gross - The Water Table Bloodaxe
Sinéad Morrissey - Through the Square Window Carcanet
Sharon Olds - One Secret Thing Cape
Alice Oswald - Weeds & Wild Flowers Faber
Christopher Reid - A Scattering Areté
George Szirtes - The Burning of the Books and Other Poems Bloodaxe
Hugo Williams - West End Final Faber

Simon Armitage said:

“We believe this to be the most wide-ranging shortlist for a poetry prize for a good number of years, one which reflects the scope, breadth and vitality of contemporary poetry. From the extraordinary number of poetry titles to be published this year we have been most impressed and persuaded by poets who have pushed their level of craft to the next level, or, in some cases, have re-thought their entire approach to writing to produce uniquely invigorated work. The books on this list are by poets who have dreamed and who have dared.”


The winner will be announced on the evening of Monday 18 January 2010 at the T S Eliot Prize award ceremony, which will be held in the Courtyard at the Wallace Collection. Mrs Valerie Eliot will present the winner with a cheque for £15,000 and each of the shortlisted poets with a cheque for £1,000 in recognition of their achievement.


On the eve of the judges’ decision all ten shortlisted poets will be invited to take part in the year’s most thrilling poetry reading. On Sunday 17 January 2010 the T S Eliot Prize Readings will once again be staged at the Southbank’s Queen Elizabeth Hall. Expect an electric atmosphere as the poets read from their collections on the eve of the judges’ decision. This event is a unique opportunity to hear the best contemporary poets reading their own work.

Tickets are on sale now from the Southbank box office 0871 663 2500 or go to For press tickets please contact Hilary Davidson 020 7833 9247 or email

In the second year of a three-year sponsorship the John S Cohen Foundation will be sponsoring the T S Eliot Prize for Poetry. The Foundation includes the David Cohen Prize for Literature amongst its portfolio, which covers the arts, education, culture, environment, conservation and heritage.

The T S Eliot Prize is supported by the T S Eliot Foundation.

Pleased observation by my publisher::

So the publishers have the following numbers of poets:

Carcanet 3
Bloodaxe 2
Faber 2
Cape 1
Gallery 1
Areté 1

(with Faber and Carcanet both having 2 of their poets automatically shortlisted as PBS Choices)

50:50 M:F

I am particularly pleased to see the names of Jane Draycott, Philip Gross and Christopher Reid included. I would be so happy to see one of them win. (Me too, of course, but then I am delighted just to be there.)


thijsw said...

Congratulations! These are exciting times!

Nicole S said...

Many congratulations. An excellent R4 programme about Yiddish the other day explained that Jews are a superstitious lot who avoid saying nice things and so I shall say no more.

Adrian Slatcher said...

Well done, George. I always wait for the T.S. Eliot shortlist with interest, as I think its a guarantee of quality.

Luke Smith said...


just wanted to pass on my congratulations - as a student on the oxford MSt, I'm very chuffed to see both you and Jane on the shortlist. Excellent news!

Graham Mummery said...

Congratulations, and highly deserved. It is one of your best. Incidentally, I've posted a review of it on Amazon. I'll look forward to seeing you at the January reading if not sooner.

Andrew Shields said...

Congratulations, George! I've got my fingers crossed for you.

Gwil W said...

Brilliant news. Congratulations and best of luck George.
And yes, I've ordered one complete with delivery before Bonfire Night guarantee. They must be selling like proverbial hot cakes.

Mark Granier said...

Congrats George, and best of luck.

James Womack said...


Michelle said...

A huge congratulations, George. I'm so pleased for you.

Billy C said...

Congratulations sent from under the elderberry tree, George. So pleased for you.

Angela France said...

Congratulations, George - very well deserved, I am loving the book.

The Plump said...

Bravo! They have taste.

George S said...

Thank you. Arrived home from Nottingham about an hour ago and just getting to the blog. Your good wishes are very valuable to me. Thank you gain.

James Brookes said...

Congratulations - I really enjoyed hearing you read some of the book a few months ago at Warwick University, especially 'Madhouse'. A couple of weeks later I found my aunt in Budapest teasing my cousin with this maddening tongue-twister:
"A vonaton egy őrült, mellette egy őr ült, örült az őrült, hogy mellette egy őr ült". I wonder if it's popular one or just a family quirk...

Gwil W said...

The post lady just now delivered your new poetry book. It came from Germany by way of Luftpost. It is raining here.

The sender has signed a Customs Declaration which states: the item does not contain any dangerous article.

Shall I risk opening the parcel or shall I return it undelivered to Staufenberg in Allemagne? I'll decide after lunch.

I was very moved by your account of your visit to your dad. Hug him in your dreams.