A second poet shortlisted for the T S Eliot Prize for Poetry has withdrawn from the
award, citing ethical issues over sponsor Aurum Funds.
Australian John Kinsella, shortlisted for collection Armour (Picador), praised as his most spiritual work to date, said he withdrew from the prize yesterday for ethical reasons. Faber poet Alice Oswald withdrew from the prize shortlist earlier this week.
"I support Alice," he said. "My politics and ethics are such that I can't accept money from such a source. I fully understand why the Poetry Book Society has looked elsewhere for funding, given the horrendous way they were treated, but as an anticapitalist in full-on form, that is my position."
Kinsella added that it was not any particular activities of Aurum's that he had a difficulty with, but the general principle of having the investment company as sponsor. "Hedge funds are at the very pointy end of capitalism, if I can put it that way," he said.
Oswald withdrew her book Memorial from the prize saying she was "uncomfortable about the fact that Aurum Funds, an investment company which exclusively manages funds of hedge funds, is sponsoring the administration".
Poetry Book Society vice-chair Desmond Clarke defended the organisation's sponsorship. "I respect the decision of Alice and John to withdraw as it's their right, but I think it is misguided," he said. "All our pension funds use investment managers such as Aurum, and Aurum's clients include the pension funds of the public sector and not for profit organisations. For some time financial institutions such as Man, EFG and Duncan Lawrie, the private bank that supports Arvon, have sponsored prizes, literary festivals and competitions."
The withdrawals leave only John Burnside, poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, Leontia Flynn, David Harsent, Esther Morgan, Daljit Nagra, Sean O'Brien and Bernard O'Donoghue in contention for the £15,000 prize, due to be awarded in January.
The Poetry Book Society, which has lost its Arts Council regularly funded status, announced in October that it had obtained "substantial" three-year sponsorship from Aurum Funds to support the award's management costs.
There is no association between Aurum Funds and Aurum the publisher.