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TS Eliot prize 2009

TS Eliot
The 15,000 prize money is donated by TS Eliot's widow Valerie

What was the best collection of poetry in the UK and Ireland last year?

The shortlist for the TS Eliot award, the UK's most prestigious prize in poetry, has been announced.

Inaugurated in 1993 to celebrate the Poetry Book Society's 40th birthday and honour its founding poet, the award comes with a £15,000 cash prize, the largest in British poetry.

The Eliot prize is an important fixture on the literary calendar, and with previous winners including Ted Hughes, Carol Ann Duffy and Seamus Heaney.

In the run up to the announcement, the Today programme is playing extracts of the shortlisted poets reading their own works. You can hear extended readings below.

SINEAD MORRISSEY - THROUGH THE SQUARE WINDOW

Sinead Morrissey

In Through the Square Window, Sinead Morrissey turns her imagination to issues of fertility, pregnancy and early childhood - with literary and historical ideas mixed in.

The Belfast based poet is lecturer in creative writing at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry in Queen's university. Two of her previous collections have been shortlisted for the TS Eliot prize.

PHILIP GROSS - THE WATER TABLE

Philip Gross

The Water Table is a collection of poems inspired by the Britsol Channel, drawing out connections with mystery, depth, and the man-made world.

Philip Gross is a professor of creative writing at Glamorgan University. His literary persuits span from science fiction to horror, children's opera to radio plays.

SHARON OLDS - ONE SECRET THING

Sharon Olds

One Secret Thing is a collection of that completes the poet's cycle of family poems. The vivid portrait of mother and home describe both the joy and mourning implicit in family life.

San Fransisco born Sharon Olds is a associate professor of English at New York University.

GEORGE SZIRTES - THE BURNING OF THE BOOKS

George Szirtes

The Burning of the Books is a collection centred on a sequence of poems which explore the long history of book burning - in particular the burning of the library of Kien in Elias Cnetti's novel Auto da Fe.

George Szirtes was born in Budapest but moved to the UK after the 1956 Hungarian uprising. As well as a poet he is a translator of Hungarian literature.

HUGO WILLIAMS - WEST END FINAL

Hugo Williams

West End Final is a collection of poems that takes the reader through the life of the poet, from the life of his parents, his childhood to a series of poems exploring pillow talk.

This is Hugo Williams' 10th collection of poems, and his collection Billy's Rain won the TS Eliot prize in 1999. He also works as a poetry editor and columnist.

EILEAN NI CHUILLEANAIN - THE SUN-FISH

Eilean Ni Chuilleanain

The Sun-Fish is a diverse collection of poems - elegies, homages and family histories fill the pages, poems that vividly imagine seas, buildings, people - an entire emotional landscape.

Described by The Irish Times as "a pre-eminent poet of her time", poet Eilean Ni Chuilleanain is the founder of the Cyphers literary journal and is a Fellow at Trinity College, Dublin.

ALICE OSWALD - WEEDS AND WILD FLOWERS

Alice Oswald

The poems of Weeds and Wild Flowers are personal portraits of common flowers which take on a life of their own.

The collection is a collaboration with artist Jessica Greenman, whose etchings accompany the poems.

Alice Oswald lives in Devon and is married with three children. Dart, her second collection, won the TS Eliot Prize in 2002.

CHRISTOPHER REID - A SCATTERING
Christopher Ried

A Scattering is series of elegies written to as a tribute to the poet's wife, actress Lucinda Gane, who died in 2005.

Christopher Reid was born in Hong Kong and has been publishing poetry since 1979, including two collections for children. He is a professor of creative writing at the University of Hull.

FRED D'AGUIAR - CONTINENTAL SHELF

Fred D'Aguiar

Continental Shelf is a collection of poems that draws from Fred D'Aguiar's childhood experiences growing up in Guyana and his reaction to the 2006 shootings at Virginia Tech University, where he is a teacher.

Fred D'Aguiar's previous collections include Airy Hall and Bill of Rights and his novel The Longest Memory won the Whitbread First Novel Award.

JANE DRAYCOTT - OVER
 Jane Draycott

Described by the Times Literary Supplement as evoking "an England half in dream", Over is a collection centred on a sequence of poems that take their name from the international phonetic alphabet - Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, and so on.

This is the third poetry collection from Jane Draycott, who teaches writing at Oxford University and the University of Lancaster.




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