Poet Hannah Sullivan has won the prestigious TS Eliot prize for her first collection Three Poems. The collection is the third debut ever to win the award in its 25-year history.
Sullivan, a 39-year-old Londoner who won the £25,000 prize on Monday night, is the third first time poet to take the prize, with all three winning in the last five years: Vietnamese-American Ocean Vuong in 2017 and Chinese-British Sarah Howe in 2015.
Sinead Morrissey, who was this year’s Chair of the Judges, said that the collection “[challenges] the parameters of what poetry can do.”
Morrissey, who won the TS Eliot Prize herself in 2013, announced the winner at a special ceremony at the Wallace Collection. It followed from a night of readings at the Southbank Centre, where all ten poets read from their work in the Royal Festival Hall.
Sullivan’s debut is made up of three lengthy poems: 'You, Very Young in New York', which explores the lives of various young people, all united by their cynicism and their uncertainty, making their way through unfulfilling relationships and work in the city; 'Repeat Until Time' is an exploration of revision in art and form, Sullivan’s PhD subject; the third, 'The Sandpit After Rain' explores connections between the birth of her baby and the death of her father.
Of the ten collections shortlisted for this year’s prize, five were for debuts; as well as Sullivan, these were Richard Scott’s Soho, Zaffar Kunial’s Us, Fiona Moore’s The Distal Point and Phoebe Power’s Shrines of Upper Austria. Also shortlisted were Nick Laird’s Feel Free, Sean O’Brien’s Europa, Tracy K Smith’s Wade in the Water, Terrance Hayes’ American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin and Ailbhe Darcy’s Insistence.
Each shortlisted poet receives £1,500 in recognition for their achievement. This, as well as the winner’s prize money, is award by the TS Eliot Foundation.