Two Irish poets have made it on the shortlist for this year’s T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry.
Among the list are Cork-born Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, for her latest collection, The Sun-fish (Gallery Press), and Northern Irish poet Sinead Morrissey for Through the Square Window (Carcanet). Announcing the shortlist, the chair of judges Simon Armitage said the judiciary believed this “to be the most wide-ranging shortlist for a poetry prize for a good number of years, one which reflects the scope, breadth and vitality of contemporary poetry”.
Such news is particularly exciting for Trinity College Dublin as Ní Chuilleanáin is an associate professor of the university’s School of English. Ní Chuilleanáin, born in 1942, is one of Ireland’s most talented contemporary poets. Educated in Cork and Oxford, Ní Chuilleanáin’s main study and teaching interests lie with Maria Edgeworth, literary translation and Renaissance works. She is currently supervising research being carried out on literature and folklore. Among her six volumes of poetry, The Magdalene Sermon was selected by chosen as one of the three best books of poetry of 1989 by the Irish Times/Aer Lingus Poetry Book Prize Committee. She has also been awarded the Patrick Kavanagh Prize and the O’Shaughnessy Award from the Irish-American Cultural Institute.
Her work is notable for its insightful imagery, sense of obscurity and wealth of words. She is an exceptional poet, who has successfully influenced young writers, as well as broadening the prospect of Irish poetry. Ní Chuilleanáin has earned her place among the very best poets of her generation. She is also a founding editor of the literary review Cyphers and a member of Aosdána, an organization of Irish artists engaged in literature, music and the visual arts.
The T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry is awarded by the Poetry Book Society to the finest collection of new verse in English. Available to those published in the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland, the Prize was inaugurated in 1993 in commemoration of the Poetry Book Society’s 40th birthday and in honour of its founding poet, T. S. Eliot.
The T. S. Eliot Prize is one of the most prestigious awards a poet can receive, shortlisting poets “who have dreamed and who have dared”, according to Armitage.
Ten collections were chosen by Armitage and his fellow judges, poets Colette Bryce and Penelope Shuttle. Armitage said that “from the extraordinary number of poetry titles to be published this year, we have been most impressed and persuaded by poets who have pushed their level of craft to the next level, or, in some cases, have re-thought their entire approach to writing to produce uniquely invigorated work.”
Several Irish poets are among previous winners, including Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley, Paul Muldoon and Ciarán Carson.