Sarah Howe has won the £20,000 T S Eliot Prize for her debut collection Loop of Jade – the first time a debut has won the award.
Howe was revealed as the winner from a shortlist of 10 at a ceremony at the V&A Museum in London tonight (11th January.)
Loop of Jade, published by Chatto & Windus, is an intimate exploration of Howe’s Anglo-Chinese heritage through her journeys to Hong Kong to discover her roots.
Judges Pascale Petit, Kei Miller and Ahren Warner chose the winner after “months of reading and deliberation” from an “exceptional shortlist”, which included four previous winners, one poet from the US, one from Jamaica, one from Australia, two Scots and two first collections.
Petit said: “In a year with an incredibly ambitious and diverse shortlist, it was difficult to choose the winner. However Sarah Howe’s Loop of Jade shone with its startling exploration of gender and injustice through place and identity, its erudition, and powerful imagery as well as her daring experiment with form. She brings new possibilities to British poetry.”
Howe was also named the winner of the Sunday Times/PFD Young Writer of the Year Award in December.
Born in Hong Kong in 1983 to an English father and Chinese mother, Howe moved to England as a child. Her pamphlet, A Certain Chinese Encyclopedia (Tall-lighthouse, 2009), won an Eric Gregory Award and her poems have appeared in journals including Poetry Review, PN Review, Poetry London, The Guardian and Poetry, as well as anthologies such as Ten: The New Wave and The Best British Poetry. She is the founding editor of Prac Crit and is currently a fellow at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute.
The shortlisted authors were each awarded £1,500. They comprised of three Bloodaxe authors: Scots poet Tracey Herd for Not in this World, Selima Hill for Jutland, and Rebecca Perry for her début collection Beauty/Beauty, while Carcanet had two authors on the shortlist: Tim Liardet for The World Before Snow and Australian poet Les Murray for Waiting for the Past. The other shortlistees were Mark Doty, an American, for Deep Lane (Cape Poetry), Sean O'Brien for The Beautiful Librarians (Picador), Don Paterson for 40 Sonnets (Faber) and Jamaican Claudia Rankine for Citizen: An American Lyric (Penguin).
A spokesperson for The Poetry Book Society, which administers the prize, thanked Mrs Valerie Eliot’s “great generosity” in providing the prize money for the award since its inception. The trustees of the T S Eliot Estate are now the sole supporters of the prize.
Last year’s winner was David Harsent for his collection Fire Songs (Faber).