Harsent's Fire Songs wins T S Eliot Prize

Harsent's Fire Songs wins T S Eliot Prize

David Harsent has won the T S Eliot Prize for his collection Fire Songs, published by Faber.

It is the the poet's first win, after being five times shortlisted for the prize.

Harsent beat nine other poets to secure the prize, include three previous winners, John Burnside, Michael Longley and Hugo Williams. The other shortlisted poets were Fiona Benson, Ruth Padel, Louise Glück, Pascale Petit, Kevin Powers and Arundhathi Subramaniam.

Helen Dunmore, chair of the judges, said: "David Harsent is a poet for dark and dangerous days. Fire Songs plumbs language and emotion with technical brilliance and prophetic power." Dumore was joined on the panel by Sean Borodale and Fiona Sampson.

In the Guardian's review of Fire Songs, Adam Newey said: "The collection makes rich use of symbol, especially biblical symbol, and reads somewhat like a modern-day Book of Revelation – there’s definitely something of the entranced, ecstatic visionary in some of the bravura pieces here."

Harsent wins £20,000, an increase of £5,000 on last year's prize, boosted to mark the 50th anniversary of T S Eliot's death. Each of the shortlisted poets receives £1,500. The T S Eliot estate is the sole sponsor of the prize.

It is the second prize for Faber this month, after Kate Saunders won the Costa Children's Book Award for Five Children on the Western Front, a follow-up to E Nesbit's Five Children and It.

A place of ice over ice, of white over white
and beauty in absences. There was a time when the only sound
was the wind calling its ghosts, when the skyline was set
clean as a scar on glass, when your heartbeat slowed
with the cold, when your dreams brought in a white bird
on a white sky and music that could only be heard
from time to time on the other side of night.
Now the horizon’s a smudge; now there’s a terrible weight
in the air and a stain cut hard and deep in the permafrost.
Breakage and slippage; the rumble of some vast
machine cranking its pistons, of everything on the slide;
and the water rising fast, and the music lost.

This poem is taken from Fire Songs (Faber)