Winner of TS Eliot Prize Announced
After his £10,000 win of the Forward Prize in October, John Burnside is now raking it in. Last night he was announced the winner of the TS Eliot Prize worth £15,000. The award attracted controversy when nominees John Kinsella and Alice Oswald (who weren’t frontrunners anyway) withdrew in protest at the involvement of the private investment management firm, Aurum. Kinsella justified his decision in the New Statesman:
I have been a vegan and pacifist for over 25 years, an anarchist for 30 years and a poet since I was a small child. Over a lifetime of writing, these four factors have interwoven into an “activist poetics” in which I practice “linguistic disobedience” in the hope of bringing about positive social, ethical and political change. “Linguistic disobedience” is pushing language to work both in unexpected ways and outside the expected poetic modes of the officially sanctioned.
Incidentally, Aurum were only sponsoring the administration of the prize. Burnside’s reaction was more sanguine:
It wasn’t a decision that I even considered… I’m always glad when a business or an individual who has money, whatever form it comes in, wants to support the arts.
Comparing Aurum to the Vatican, he said that not wanting to take part would be:
a bit like Michelangelo saying to the Pope ‘I don’t want your money’ – so he won’t be able to make his art any more.
One of the finest poets writing today … While the tiny handful of his British peers embraces clarity and a rhythmic steadiness, Burnside’s poems resemble ragas more than traditional Western forms. Their organic shapes seem generated by their material, and by the running line of phrase leading to phrase, not quite a stream of consciousness but something close to it.
Kinsella’s “linguistic disobedience” doesn’t seem to have done the trick, though. Aurum’s dirty dosh is set to tarnish the prize’s integrity again next year.