Friday, December 9, 2011

T.S. Eliot Poetry Award Controversy

The Australian poet I mentioned a few times recently, John Kinsella, is in the news again. His collection, Armour, was one of a shortlist of ten for the £15,000 TS Eliot prize announced in October.

Since then award-winning poet Alice Oswald, who was shortlisted for her new collection Memorial, a retelling of the Iliad focusing on the ordinary soldiers who died, pulled out in protest at its sponsorship by an investment company. Oswald said she believes that "poetry should be questioning not endorsing such institutions".

The Poetry Book Society, which runs the award loses its Arts Council funding next year and it announced a new three-year sponsorship for the prize from private investment management firm Aurum Funds at the same time as it revealed its shortlist in October.

Oswald's withdrawal was followed later this week by that of Kinsella. 'The business of Aurum does not sit with my personal politics and ethics', he said, 'hedge funds are at the very pointy end of capitalism'.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. I admire their stands of course but I like the idea of someone like Kinsella, whose poetry leaves no room for doubt about his attitude, taking money from an outfit like Aurum and getting publicity from them - subversion rather than endorsing.

Eight poets remain in the running for the TS Eliot prize, one of the most prestigious in poetry: John Burnside, Carol Ann Duffy, David Harsent, Esther Morgan, Daljit Nagra, Sean O'Brien and Irish poets, Leontia Flynn for Profit and Loss and Bernard O'Donoghue for Farmer's Cross.

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