Former drug addict wins prestigious poetry prize

John Burnside beats strong field to take T S Eliot award at third try with haunting collection 'Black Cat Bone'

A celebrated poet who has documented his battle with alcoholism and drugs saw off competition from a heavyweight shortlist including laureate Carol Ann Duffy to win the highest accolade in British poetry at the third time of asking.

The Poetry Book Society last night awarded Scottish poet John Burnside the £15,000 T S Eliot Prize for his collection Black Cat Bone, just three months after he won the £10,000 Forward Prize for the same work.

The T S Eliot Prize for Poetry, which is in its 19th year, was called the "prize most poets want to win" by former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion, and previous winners include Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney. Burnside had previously been shortlisted for the award in 2000 for The Asylum Dance, and then two years later for The Light Trap.

Yet the prize has been mired in controversy this year after two shortlisted poets pulled out in protest over the choice of sponsor. Alice Oswald and John Kinsella both withdrew from the competition over the involvement of investment company Aurum Funds.

The Society announced Aurum's three-year sponsorship last year, following news that it would lose all funding from the Arts Council. Oswald, who won the Prize in 2002, withdrew in December saying she was "uncomfortable" with the sponsorship by a company that invests in hedge funds.

Kinsella followed, saying the "business of Aurum does not sit with my personal politics and ethics". Desmond Clarke, vice-chair of the Poetry Book Society, called the decision to withdraw "misguided".

Burnside's victory was announced last night at the Haberdashers' Hall in London. Gillian Clarke, who became National Poet for Wales in 2008 and chaired the judging panel, said: "In an exceptional year, it is an outstanding book; one which the judges felt grew with every reading." She said Black Cat Bone was "a haunting book of great beauty, powered by love, childhood memory, human longing and loneliness". Burnside deals with his addiction to drugs in the volume – a subject he has written about before, saying he was a "full-scale lunatic".

The judges chose Burnside's work from what it termed an eight-strong "star-studded" shortlist which included Carol Ann Duffy's The Bees, and Sean O'Brien, winner of the prize in 2007.

Burnside left Scotland in 1965 and worked as a factory hand, labourer and gardener, but it was during the decade spent as a computer systems designer that his life unravelled.

His first collection of poetry, The Hoop, was published in 1988. He won the Whitbread Poetry Award in 2000 for The Asylum Dance.

He now teaches at the University of St Andrews and has written short stories, novels and two memoirs. His novel A Summer of Drowning was shortlisted for the Costa best novel award earlier this year.

T S Eliot, whose celebrated works include The Wasteland and The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock, set up the Poetry Book Society with friends in 1953.

A prize in his honour was established in 1993. Valerie Eliot, the poet's widow, and his estate have provided the prize money since the awards have started.

Extract: Black Cat Bone

No more conversations.

No more wedlock.

No more vein of perfume in a scarf

I haven't worn for months, her voice come back

to haunt me, and the Hundertwasser sky

Magnificat to how a jilted heart

refuses what it once mistook for mercy.

It's never what we wanted, everafter;

we asked for something else, a lifelong Reich

of unexpected gifts and dolce vita,

peach–blossom smudging the glass and a seasoned

glimmer of the old days in this house

where, every night, we tried and failed to mend

that feathered thing we brought in from the yard,

after it came to grief on our picture window.

From 'Black Cat Bone', published by Jonathan Cape'

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?