Posted: 25 January 2011
The Poetry Book Society is delighted to announce that Derek Walcott has won the 2010 T S Eliot Prize for Poetry with White Egrets, published by Faber & Faber.
The judges of this year's Prize, Chair Anne Stevenson and fellow-poets Bernardine Evaristo and Michael Symmons Roberts, reached their decision after months of deliberation and debate.
The winner was chosen from a field of ten highly-regarded poets. The shortlist for this year's Prize included one previous T S Eliot Prize winner, two Nobel laureates, one Costa Poetry Award winner (and one who has won it three times), two Forward winners (including one who has won various Forward prizes three times), one poet from the States, one from Ireland, one from the Caribbean and one debut collection.
Anne Stevenson said:
"This year's exceptionally strong and varied shortlist made it difficult to choose the winner, but the judges felt that Derek Walcott's White Egrets was a moving, risk-taking and technically flawless book by a great poet."
Born in St Lucia in 1930, Derek Walcott studied at the University College of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica. His collection of poems In a Green Night: Poems 1948-1960 (1962), celebrating the Caribbean, brought him to public attention. Since then he has published many other poetry collections. In Omeros (1990), an epic poem and his most ambitious work, he invokes the lives and voices of the people of the Caribbean through Greek myth and epic, drawing on Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. The book won the W H Smith Literary Award in 1990. His Collected Poems 1948-1984 were published in 1986, and he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992. He is an honorary member of the American Academy and the Institute of Arts and Letters.
Anne Stevenson formally announced the winner at the T S Eliot Prize award ceremony at the Wallace Collection on Monday 24th January. Mrs Valerie Eliot presented the winner with a cheque for £15,000 and each shortlisted poet received a cheque for £1,000 in recognition of their achievement in winning a place on the most prestigious shortlist in UK poetry. The Poetry Book Society would like to thank Mrs Eliot for her generosity in providing the prize money.
The award ceremony was preceded by the T S Eliot Prize Readings on Sunday 23rd January, which moved this year to the Royal Festival Hall, achieving a spectacular near sell-out with twice as many tickets sold as the previous year.
In the third year of a three-year sponsorship the John S Cohen Foundation sponsored the 2010 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 Estate.
Sixty Years After by Derek Walcott
In my wheelchair in the Virgin lounge at Vieuxfort,
I saw, sitting in her own wheelchair, her beauty
hunched like a crumpled flower, the one whom I thought
as the fire of my young life would do her duty
to be golden and beautiful and young forever
even as I aged. She was treble-chinned, old, her devastating
smile was netted in wrinkles, but I felt the fever
briefly returning as we sat there, crippled, hating
time and the lie of general pleasantries.
Small waves still break against the small stone pier
where a boatman left me in the orange peace
of dusk, a half-century ago, maybe happier
being erect, she like a deer in her shyness, I stalking
an impossible consummation; those who knew us
knew we would never be together, at least, not walking.
Now the silent knives from the intercom went through us.
Seeing Stars - Simon Armitage (Faber)
The shortlist for the 2010 T S Eliot Prize was: