LONDON (Reuters) – English poet David Harsent won the prestigious TS Eliot Prize for Poetry on Monday for his collection “Fire Songs”, which he said was inspired in part by what he called “the depredation of the planet” through climate change.
Harsent, 72, won the prize in the 50th anniversary year of the death of the American-born Eliot, often ranked as the best modernist poet of the 20th century for works such as “The Waste Land” and “The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock”.
Harsent said “Fire Songs”, his 11th collection of poems, had in part been inspired by his younger son’s concern about “the heat death of the planet”.
“I just wish politicians would do something about putting that into reverse,” Harsent told Reuters at the awards ceremony held in a London museum. “I sometimes wonder if the people who are responsible for the way the world works look at the almost apparently insurmountable problems of planetary depredation and do they have children and grandchildren – do they think about the future at all?”
He said the collection of poems does not deal directly with those subjects, but the last “Fire Song” in the volume “is a sort of black fantasy of the end of the world”.
Harsent was chosen by a three-judge panel from a shortlist of 10 finalists for the prize which is administered by the Poetry Book Society and carries a £20,000 (US$30,344) top prize funded by the TS Eliot Estate.
“David Harsent is a poet for dark and dange-rous days,” poet and writer Helen Dunmore, the chair of the judges, said. “‘Fire Songs’ plumbs language and emotion with technical brilliance and prophetic power.”
Previous winners of the prize which was first given in 1993 include Ted Hughes, Paul Muldoon, Michael Longley, Don Paterson, Anne Carson, George Szirtes, Derek Walcott and Seamus Heaney.