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September 25, 2014

Burnside, Miller and Williams up for Forward Best Collection

John Burnside, Kei Miller and Hugo Williams are among the poets shortlisted for the £10,000 Forward Prize for Best Collection.

The three 2014 Forward Poetry Prizes celebrating the best of the year’s poetry, awarding the best collection, best first collection and best single poem.

Shortlisted for the £10,000 Forward Prize for Best Collection are Colette Bryce for The Whole & Rain-domed Universe (Picador Poetry); John Burnside for All One Breath (Cape Poetry); Louise Glück for Faithful and Virtuous Night (Carcanet); Kei Miller for The Cartographer Tries to Map A Way to Zion (Carcanet); and Hugo Williams for I Knew the Bride (Faber & Faber).

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January 25, 2012

The mystery of poetry editing: from TS Eliot to John Burnside

Filed under: Poetry — Tags: , , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 5:58 am

If one poet edits another, whose work is it? In the week that John Burnside won the T S Eliot Prize, Sameer Rahim investigates the unseen hands behind that most personal and mysterious of literary forms.


Alone on the verge of Hell, Dante is rescued by a fellow poet. When his hero Virgil appears before him he is star-struck: “You are my master, and indeed my author; / It is from you alone that I have taken / the exact style for which I have been honoured.” The Aeneid’s author generously guides him through the Commedia cajoling, correcting and encouraging him on his long poetic journey.

Every poet needs a Virgil. Wordsworth had Coleridge; Tennyson had Arthur Hallam; and Edward Thomas had Robert Frost. However, the best-preserved example of one poet editing another is Ezra Pound’s work on TS Eliot’s The Waste Land. The poem’s manuscript, first published in 1971 and now available on a snazzy iPad app, shows Pound’s boldness. On the first page of the second part, “A Game of Chess”, he wrote disapprovingly: “Too tum-pum at a stretch”; further down he complains a line is “too penty” – too regular a pentameter. Eliot redrafted the lines until he got an “OK” in the margin. Eliot acknowledged his friend’s role when he dedicated the 1925 edition to Pound, calling him Il miglior fabbro or “the better craftsman” – a phrase from Dante.

In the week that John Burnside won the TS Eliot Prize, it seems a fitting time to investigate how poet-editors (editors who are also poets) can shape the literary landscape. All the main poetry publishers – Faber, Picador, Jonathan Cape, Carcanet and Bloodaxe – have practising poets as editors, and a house’s tone and fortunes can be radically altered depending on the poet in charge of the poems of others.

Often seen as the most personal and mysterious of literary forms – and therefore least likely to be guided by an outside hand – poetry is, in fact, strikingly indebted to invisible creators. What, we might ask, are the effects and risks of this little-understood practice on the nation’s verse?

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January 17, 2012

John Burnside wins most controversial TS Eliot prize in decades

John Burnside has won the TS Eliot prize for his poetry collection Black Cat Bone. Photograph: Murdo Macleod

Scottish poet’s Black Cat Bone beats strong shortlist in contest mired in protest over City funding.

By Maev Kennedy

The Scottish poet John Burnside has won the most controversial TS Eliot poetry prize in years, for a collection described as “haunting”, after two of the original shortlisted poets dropped out in protest over funding from the hedge fund Aurum.

Burnside, a former winner of the Whitbread poetry prize, took the £15,000 prize for his 11th collection, Black Cat Bone. He beat a notably strong surviving list, including the poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy; Sean O’Brien, for his first collection since winning both the TS Eliot and the Forward prizes in 2008; and David Harsent, also a previous Forward winner.

The Welsh poet Gillian Clarke, chair of the 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 was presented with the cheque by Valerie Eliot, widow of the poet, at a ceremony in London. She has funded the prize itself since it was launched 18 years ago but the Poetry Society, which organises the competition, will lose all its Arts Council grant this year, and its search for replacement funding proved bitterly divisive.

The three-year sponsorship deal from Aurum was announced at the same time as the shortlist – at the height of the Occupy London protests, when protests were also swelling about the Tate and other major museums and galleries accepting sponsorship from the oil group BP.

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October 6, 2011

Triumph at last for Burnside at Forward Prize

John Burnside

06.10.11 | Katie Allen

John Burnside has won the Forward Prize for Best Collection after being shortlisted a previous three times for the poetry prize.

The 56-year-old received the £10,000 award for his collection Black Cat Bone (Jonathan Cape), praised by chair of judges Andrew Motion as “[a book] to linger over, as well as one to enjoy at first reading”. He said: “It is a distinguished winner of the Forward Prize.”

The awards, now in their 20th year, took place yesterday evening (5th October) at Somerset House in London on the eve of National Poetry Day. The Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection, worth £5,000, went to Rachael Boast for Sidereal (Picador). The collection was also longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and shortlisted for the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize.

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