Burnside wins £15,000 T S Eliot Prize

Scottish poet John Burnside has won the prestigious award in a controversial year

John Burnside has won the 2011 T S Eliot Prize for poetry for his collection Black Cat Bone.

At an award ceremony last night at the Haberdashers' Hall in London, the Poetry Book Society announced that his “haunting" book of verse had won the 19th annual prize, beating a high-profile shortlist that included poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy.

Welsh poet Gillian Clarke, this year’s chair of judges, said: “Amongst an unprecedentedly strong and unusually well-received shortlist, John Burnside’s Black Cat Bone is a haunting book of great beauty, powered by love, childhood memory, human longing and loneliness. In an exceptional year, it is an outstanding book, one which the judges felt grew with every reading.”

Burnside takes the £15,000 prize in a controversial year which saw shortlisted poets Alice Oswald and then John Kinsella withdraw from the prize citing ethical issues over sponsor Aurum Fund. Mrs Valerie Eliot, T S Eliot’s widow, has provided the prize money each year since the inception of the award in 1993.

Fife resident and former computer software engineer John Burnside is the author of 11 poetry collections, including The Asylum Dance which took the Whitbread Poetry Award in 2000. Black Cat Bone also won the the 2011 Forward Prize for the best collection, making Burnside one of only two poets to have won both prestigious prizes.

Writing for The Guardian, M Wynn Thomas described it as: “a tour de force of liminal expression”, while Lesley McDowell from The Independent hailed it as an “eerily beautiful collection".

The prize is awarded to the author of the best new collection of poetry published in the UK and Ireland each year and has been described by Andrew Motion as “the prize most poets want to win.”



Black Cat Bone by John Burnside is published by Cape



Photo credit: Adrian Pope