Jo Shapcott wins Britain's Costa Book prize

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Jo Shapcott has been named as the surprise winner of Britain's Costa Book of the Year award for her slim volume of poetry in part inspired by a battle against breast cancer.

It is the second year in a row that poetry has picked up the 30,000-pound (47,000-dollar, 35,000-euro) honour and commentators said the result was evidence of a "renaissance" in the genre's fortunes.

Shapcott, 57, said she was shocked at her victory late Tuesday for her work, "Of Mutability", which beat firm favourite Edmund de Waal's family memoir "The Hare with Amber Eyes."

"It was the last thing I was expecting. The other books on the shortlist are so extraordinary," she told the BBC after being awarded the prize at a London ceremony.

"Poetry won last year so I thought, naturally, not poetry again."

Last year, the prize was won by poet Christopher Reid for his collection, "A Scattering", which was a tribute to his late wife.

Shapcott said she was accepting the award for poetry as a whole as she wanted to encourage more people to pay attention to the genre.

"There are lots of readers out there who might love poetry if they tried it but don't, because they don't think it is for them," she said.

The book has been described as being a response to breast cancer and the acknowledgements in the front of the 54-page volume say it "owes everything" to the medical team at the hospital who treated her.

But Shapcott said it was more than that and described it as "a series of meditations on mortality, some of which are terribly cheerful, in fact ecstatic."

Chair of the judging panel, broadcaster Andrew Neil, hailed the book for its accessibility and said it could be enjoyed by those with little knowledge of poetry.

"If someone was uncertain of poetry, if they got this book in their hands they would quickly fall in love with it," he said.

Peter Saxton, who is a poetry buyer for major British book chain Waterstones, hailed the win as evidence of poetry's increasing popularity.

"Two wins in a row for the poetry category must surely mark some sort of renaissance," he said.

The Costa Book of the Year award is selected from five previously announced winners of individual categories, which are novel, biography, poetry, first novel and children's .

The Costa Book Awards, formerly the Whitbread Book Award, was established in 1971 to celebrate contemporary British and Irish writing. A panel of writers, actors and broadcasters choose the most enjoyable books from the past year.

Comments