I was lucky enough to get a chance to attend the T S Elliott award readings on Sunday, and the award ceremony on Monday evening.
The readings were wonderful, with a crowd of 2000 people filling the Royal Festival Hall. The finalists: Gillian Clarke, Sean Borodale, Julia Copus, Jorie Graham, Simon Armitage, Kathleen Jamie, Jacob Polley, Derryn Rees-Jones, Paul Farley and Sharon Olds, gave wonderful performances. With host Ian McMillan striking the perfect balance between humour and poignancy, each reading was of a standard that made it difficult to imagine how hard the task of judging the award must have been.
"I wore this shirt last year, but these are new trousers... so like me, these poets are bringing together the old and the new..." said Ian McMillan (paraphrased somewhat).
For myself I enjoyed the visceral quality of Sean Borodale's Bee Journal reading, describing a bee queen's eyes as 'castanets' and then immediately as like 'casting nets'. His work was invigorating and complex, its microscopic eye for detail not ignoring the opportunity for bigger truths to creep in.
Gillian Clarke's reading was likewise riveting, and Jacob Polley's work was new to me, so was particularly inspiring.
Sharon Olds' book Stag's Leap, from Cape Poetry, had a heartbreaking emotional intensity and a wry, reflective thrust to it which left me thinking about certain lines for day's afterwards.
It was not surprising, therefore, that she took the prize the following night at the Wallace Collection in W1.
Here are a few blurry pictures which nevertheless capture something of the golden-ness of the evening.
Sharon Olds accepting the award