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Professor's striking poems shortlisted for £20,000 TS Eliot prize

A striking collection of poems called Fire Songs, by Roehampton professor David Harsent has been shortlisted for the renowned TS Eliot Prize, one of the most admired in the poetry world.

Posted: 7 January 2015

image for news story Professor's striking poems shortlisted for £20,000 TS Eliot prize
Professor David Harsent, who has been shortlisted for the TS Eliot Poetry Prize

Professor Harsent has previously been shortlisted three times for the TS Eliot Prize, including for an earlier collection called Night, which subsequently won the Griffin International Poetry Prize. He is due to read excerpts from Fire Songs at a high-profile event at the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank in London this Saturday, two days before the winner of the £20,000 prize is announced.

A review of his collection published in The Independent newspaper in August said: “Fire Songs teems with images and ideas that manage to be both richly detailed and vividly musical, from ‘the sopping bud’ of a dead Christ's heart to an alliterative ‘scorch on corn and kale’. The wide-ranging word-choice is consistently surprising and beautiful.” The article described Professor Harsent’s work as having and ‘urgent as well as striking vision’.

Professor Harsent is among 10 finalists for the prize, now in its 21st year. Others include Fiona Benson, Ruth Padel and Hugo Williams.

Poet, writer and critic Helen Dunmore, chair of the judging panel, said: “Our shortlist reflects the musicality, mastery and ambition of these 10 chosen poets. It's worth saying that while our discussions were searching, our decisions were in all cases unanimous. As one judge said when we surveyed the shortlisted books: 'This is a box-set I'd love to have'."

Professor Harsent joined the University of Roehampton as Professor of Creative Writing in September 2013, and chairs the Roehampton Poetry Centre. As well as winning the Griffin International Prize, his book, Legion, won the Forward Prize for best collection in 2005. He is also a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Professor Harsent has collaborated with composers - most often with Harrison Birtwistle - on commissions that have been performed at venues including the Royal Opera House, the Saltzburg Festival and at Carnegie Hall.

He supervises PhD students and teaches masterclasses at the University of Roehampton, and last year co-hosted a seminar on creative writing at Wimbledon Book Fest, of which the University is a partner.

The department of English and Creative Writing at Roehampton offers rich and varied professional writing courses specialising in fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction and fiction for Young Readers.

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