Irish poet Sinéad Morrissey wins prestigious TS Eliot Prize

Belfast poet’s fifth collection described as politically, historically and personally ambitious

Sinéad Morrissey is reader in creative writing at the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s University and the city’s inaugural Poet Laureate.

Sinéad Morrissey is reader in creative writing at the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s University and the city’s inaugural Poet Laureate.

Mon, Jan 13, 2014, 21:57

Irish poet Sinéad Morrissey has won the prestigious TS Eliot Prize for Poetry for her latest collection Parallax.

Chosen from a shortlist of 10, the Belfast-based poet’s fifth collection, as the title suggests, explores the unsettling paradoxes of skewed or partial perspectives.

One of its most remarkable poems, The Doctors, centres on the Soviet practice of “disappearing” people from state photographs: “With scissors, / nail files, ink and Sellotape, he has been vanished - / alongside other party operatives who touched His sleeve, or didn’t clap for long enough, or loved / their wives, or laughed, or who pointed the way / down some rickety steps as though He needed help”.

“I’m so delighted, it’s a dream come true,” she said after receeiving her £15,000 prize at a ceremony in London’s Hertford House, the home of the Wallace Collection of art.

Morrissey, who lives in Belfast where she is reader in creative writing at the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s University and the city’s inaugural Poet Laureate,said she had no explanation for why Northern Ireland, the birthplace of several previous winners, was a fertile breeding ground for poets.

“I think there is something distinctive about Northern Ireland and I think the poetry tradition from that very small place with that very small population is extraordinary. Why that is, I don’t know,” she said.

British poet Ian Duhig, chair of the final judging panel, said: “In a year of brilliantly themed collections, the judges were unanimous in choosing Sinéad Morrissey’s Parallax as the winner.”

“Politically, historically and personally ambitious, expressed in beautifully turned language, her book is as many-angled and any-angled as its title suggests,” he said.

Born in 1972 in County Armagh, Morrissey is the author of five poetry collections, four of which Between Here and There (2002); The State of the Prisons (2005); Through the Square Window (2009); and Parallax (2013) have been shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize.

Through the Square Window also won the 2010 Irish Times Poetry Now Award, and its title poem won first prize in the UK National Poetry Competition in 2007.

Previous Irish winners of the prize, considered by many to be the top English language poetry award, have included Ciarán Carson (1993), Paul Muldoon (1994), Michael Longley (2000) and Seamus Heaney (2006).

Other poets on the 2013 shortlist included fellow Irish poet Maurice Riordan for The Water Stealer; Forward prize-winning British poet Michael Symmons Roberts for Drysalter; and Hungarian-born British poet George Szirtes for Bad Machine.

The prize is run by the Poetry Book Society and supported by the TS Eliot estate and Aurum, an investment management company.