Caian poet scoops prestigious TS Eliot prize
- 12 January 2016
Sarah Howe, a Caius Research Fellow until last summer, has won the 2015 TS Eliot Poetry prize with her first collection Loop of Jade - the first time a debut collection has won the prize since its launch 26 years ago.
The book is an intimate exploration of Howe's Anglo-Chinese heritage though her journeys to Hong Kong to discover her roots.
Pascale Petit, the poet who chaired the panel of judges, said that 32-year-old Howe’s work was “absolutely amazing” and that her experimentations with form would “change British poetry”.
“She is exploring the situation of women in China, but she doesn’t do it just like that; she does it in a very erudite and dense, rich, imagistic way,” she said.
Especially impressive were Howe’s different and daring forms of poetry, and her powerful use of blank space, said Petit.
Howe’s debut also won the 2015 Sunday Times young writer of the year award.
“People will find it accessible, but it will need rereading,” Petit added. “That is one of its strengths. It doesn’t matter how often you read it, there is more in it. It is very rich and really does speak to what is going on today with the status of women in the world.”
The award was presented on Monday evening at a ceremony at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. “It is absolutely amazing that it is her first book,” Petit told the Guardian. “It plays wildly with form, and at the same time it is dealing with very topical and difficult subjects – and from a culture which we are not used to seeing in British poetry.”
Howe, who has a British father and a Chinese mother, moved from Hong Kong to England when she was young. Her poems chart the journeys she made back to Hong Kong to rediscover her roots.
She has already won the 2015 Sunday Times young writer of the year award, while Caius Fellow Professor Stephen Hawking read her poem Relativity for National Poetry Day.
Organised by the Poetry Book Society, the TS Eliot prize was funded and presented by Eliot’s widow Valerie until her death in 2012. It is now maintained by the poet’s estate.