'Clear and compelling voices': the TS Eliot prize shortlist is unveiled

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Judges Glyn Maxwell (chair), Caroline Bird and Zaffar Kunial have chosen the 2021 TS Eliot prize shortlist from a record 177 poetry collections submitted by British and Irish publishers. The list comprises one debut collection; work from six men and four women; one American; one poet from Ireland; as well as poets of mixed race ancestry, including Jamaican, Jamaican-Chinese and Zambian. Eight publishers are represented, with two titles from small presses.

Glyn Maxwell described the 10 books shortlisted by the judges as “clear and compelling voices – of the moment, yet also below and beyond it. Older and younger, wiser and wilder, well-known and lesser-known, these are the ten voices we think should enter the stage and be heard in the spotlight, changing the story while there’s a story to be changed.”

Here are the 10 poets who have been shortlisted by the judges:

Raymond Antrobus – All the Names Given (Picador): Raymond Antrobus is also the author of To Sweeten Bitter and The Perseverance (Penned in the Margins/Tin House). In 2019 he became the first poet to be awarded the Rathbone Folio prize. Other accolades include the Ted Hughes award, and Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year award, and being shortlisted for the Griffin prize and Forward prize.

Kayo Chingonyi – A Blood Condition (Chatto & Windus): Kayo Chingonyi is also the author of two pamphlets. His first full-length collection, Kumukanda (Chatto & Windus 2012) won the Dylan Thomas prize and a Somerset Maugham award and was shortlisted for the Costa poetry prize and the Seamus Heaney Centre First Poetry Collection prize.

Victoria Kennefick – Eat Or We Both Starve (Carcanet): Victoria Kennefick’s pamphlet, White Whale (Southword Editions, 2015), won the Munster Literature Centre Fool for Poetry chapbook competition and the Saboteur award for Best Poetry Pamphlet.

Selima Hill – Men Who Feed Pigeons (Bloodaxe): Selima Hill has produced 19 books of poetry, all published by Bloodaxe.  Her 1997 collection, Violet, was shortlisted for the Forward poetry prize, the TS Eliot prize and the Whitbread poetry award. Bunny (2001), won the Whitbread poetry award, and was shortlisted for the TS Eliot prize.

Hannah Lowe – The Kids (Bloodaxe): Hannah Lowe’s first poetry collection Chick (Bloodaxe 2013) won the Michael Murphy Memorial award for best first collection, was shortlisted for the Forward prize for best first collection and the Seamus Heaney Centre prize for poetry. Her second collection was Chan.

Michael Symmons Roberts – Ransom (Cape Poetry): Michael Symmons Roberts’s eight poetry collections, all published by Cape, include Corpus, which was the winner of the 2004 Whitbread poetry award, and was shortlisted for the TS Eliot prize, the Forward prize and the Griffin international prize. Drysalter was the winner of the 2013 Forward prize and the Costa poetry prize and was shortlisted for the TS Eliot prize.

Daniel Sluman – single window (Nine Arches Press): Daniel Sluman co-edited the first major UK disability poetry anthology, Stairs and Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back, (2017) with Sandra Alland and Khairani Barokka. He has previously published two poetry collections, Absence has a weight of its own (2012) and the terrible (2015), both Nine Arches Press.

Joelle Taylor – C+nto & Othered Poems (The Westbourne Press): Joelle Taylor has published three previous collections of poetry: Ska Tissue (2011, Mother Foucault Press), The Woman Who Was Not There (2014, Burning Eye Books) and Songs My Enemy Taught Me (2017, Out-Spoken Press). She founded SLAMbassadors for the Poetry Society in 2001 and is the host of London’s night of poetry and music Out-Spoken.

Jack Underwood – A Year in the New Life (Faber): Jack Underwood was a winner of an Eric Gregory award in 2007 and his debut pamphlet was published by Faber as part of the first Faber New Poets series in 2009. His debut poetry collection, Happiness (Faber, 2015), won the Somerset Maugham award. He is a senior lecturer in English and creative writing at Goldsmiths College, University of London.

Kevin Young - Stones (Cape Poetry): Kevin Young is the author of 15 books of poetry and prose, including Brown; Blue Laws: Selected & Uncollected Poems 1995-2015; Book of Hours, Jelly Roll: a blues, Bunk and The Grey Album. He is the Andrew W Mellon director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and poetry editor of the New Yorker. Stones is the first of his poetry collections to be published in the UK.

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