Poetry is King at Eliot Prize Reading

By  | January 19, 2011 | Filed under: Culture

On the belief that poetry is indeed a growing, expanding art form, this year, Southbank Center will host its annual T.S. Eliot Prize Readings festival in larger digs: the Royal Festival Hall.

The shortlisted poets for this year’s prize, a prestigious award for the best poetry collection of 2010, are Simon Armitage, Annie Freud, John Haynes, Seamus Heaney, Pascale Petit, Robin Robertson, Fiona Sampson, Brian Turner, Derek Walcott and Sam Willetts. Eight of the poets will attend the Jan. 23 event, with guest poets reading for Mr. Heaney and Mr. Walcott.

The full story, on the 2011 T.S. Eliot Prize Readings, is at the NEW YORK TIMES and also continues here:

The event at Southbank (Belvedere Road; 44-20-7960-4200; www.southbankcentre.co.uk), which begins at 7 p.m., is open to the public, and is presented in association with the Poetry Book Society, which Eliot helped to found in 1953.

The Internet, said Rachel Holmes, head of literature and spoken word at Southbank, has proven to be a huge boost for poetry, providing new platforms and outlets for poets and fans.

“It’s not just the fact that digital grows the market and people’s access to it,” she said. “Poetry suits online, being short, pithy and a piece of thinking you can read and then carry in your head.

“The increase in social networking and people engaging with culture through virtually mediated platforms means that there’s now a renewed hunger to experience unmediated live events. Simultaneously virtual networks are making it easier to reach more diverse and niche audiences widely and quickly.”

Southbank has seen rising interest in all of its literary events, according to Ms. Holmes. Ticket sales have more than doubled in the past three years, and the center doubled the number of seats available for live literature events. In 2009 Southbank sold out the 900-seat Queen Elizabeth Hall with appearances by Toni Morrison, Arundhati Roy and Benjamin Zephaniah.

But although poetry is treated like a national achievement much like football and cricket, Ms. Holmes added, it’s not funded at anywhere near the same level. “Poetry is highly valued in Britain, it’s our great national art form. But it needs the support proper to a national art form and it’s just plain silly to suppose that poetry can be run within the model of free market economy.”

Photo of TS Eliot: Courtesy of Southbank Centre

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