Shadow the 2013 T S Eliot Judges

T_S_-Eliot-Prize-Ceremony

The T S Eliot Prize is awarded annually to a poet for writing the best poetry collection that year. The T S Eliot Prize Shadowing Scheme allows you to hone your skills as a judge and also gives you the chance to win this year’s shortlisted collections and an invitation to both the T S Eliot Readings and the glamourous award ceremony, where you can meet this year’s poets, publishers and judges. Find out more about the shadowing scheme and get a headstart with advice from previous judge Michael Symmons Roberts.

We’re all familiar with the idea of judging – from the very public and sometimes harsh judging on TV programmes like The X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing, to the more solemn sort of judging which takes place mostly behind closed doors, such as with the Man Booker Prize for Fiction. If you’ve ever fancied yourself as a judge – and let’s face it, who hasn’t at least occasionally felt that their opinion is more worthy than that of a judge’s? –  then the T S Eliot Prize Shadowing Scheme is your chance to pit your own opinions against those of this year’s T S Eliot Prize judges.

The T S Eliot Prize for Poetry is an annual prize awarded to the best collection of poetry published in the UK and Ireland, with the winner selected by three poet judges. Whilst it’s fair to say it doesn’t attract quite the public following of something like the Oscars, it’s nevertheless an important prize within the poetry world, not least because the winner receives a whopping £15,000.

The Poetry Book Society who organise the prize also run the shadowing scheme, in partnership with emagazine, offering A-Level students the chance to make their own judgements about the shortlist. If reading your way through 10 shortlisted collections in order to judge the best seems like a bit of a slog, then fear not. Two poems from each of the shortlisted collections are available to download from the Poetry Book Society website, which is enough to give you a sense of the different poets on the shortlist. A-Level Students are then invited to write a 500 word rationale in support of their favourite poet.

The closing date for entering this competition is 18 December 2012. If you’re outside the age range (16-18) for entering the writing competition, you can still vote for your favourite poet.

The winner of the writing competition will receive tickets to the Poetry Readings in January 2013 at the Royal Festival Hall, London, and also to the glamorous affair that is the award ceremony the following evening, at which the winner of the T S Eliot Prize will be announced.

Michael Symmons Roberts, a previous T S Eliot Prize judge, gives his advice on judging a book of poetry

Michael Symmonds RobertsPhoto: Jemimah Kuhfeld

“It’s always hard to decide between different poets writing very different poems. But judging poems starts with careful reading, and the trick with that is not to read a poem like a piece of fiction. You might read a novel once, then put it on the shelf. Poetry is closer to music, and you wouldn’t listen to a great song once and never again. If you’re reading – or judging – poems you should read them over and over again. The stronger poems gradually stand out from the rest, because they give you something more each time you read them – the music of a line that sticks in your head, a connection between things you never thought belonged together, a new way of looking at the world. The best poems, like the best songs, get better the more time you spend with them. And the weaker ones fade, because they’ve given you everything they’ve got on first reading. And then, of course, there’s A E Housman’s observation that a really fine poem makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck when you read it. But that’s much rarer…”


Find out more about the T S Eliot Prize Shadowing Scheme on the Poetry Book Society website. Closed 18 December 2012.

Published November, 2012

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