Global Indian poet Bhanu Kapil on T.S. Eliot Prize shortlist

Global Indian poet Bhanu Kapil on T.S. Eliot Prize shortlist

Author-poet Bhanu Kapil is among 10 shortlisted artists for this year’s T.S. Eliot Prize, named after the renowned 20th-century American-British poet.

Kapil, a Global Indian who was born in England and grew up in London, made the cut with ‘How to Wash a Heart’, which explores the relationship between an immigrant guest and a citizen host.

The prize, dubbed as the most valuable prize in British poetry and the only major poetry prize judged purely by established poets, comes with a winner's cheque for £25,000 and the shortlisted poets win cheques for £1,500 each.

Best new poetry

The 2020 judging panel, which includes British Indian poet Mona Arshi, said they were on the lookout for the best new poetry collection written in English and published this year.

Poet Lavinia Greenlaw, Chair of the judging panel, said: “My fellow judges, Mona Arshi, Andrew McMillan and I have been reading books written in a different world, the one before Covid-19.

“The urgency and vitality of the ten books on this shortlist commanded our attention nonetheless. We were unsettled, captivated and compelled. Poetry is the most resilient, potent, capacious and universal art we have.”

The panel sifted through 153 entries to finalise their shortlist of 10, which includes Natalie Diaz for ‘Postcolonial Love Poem’; Sasha Dugdale for ‘Deformations’; Ella Frears for ‘Shine, Darling’; Will Harris for ‘RENDANG’; Wayne Holloway Smith for ‘Love Minus Love’; Daisy Lafarge for ‘Life Without Air’; Glyn Maxwell for ‘How the hell are you’; Shane McCrae for ‘Sometimes I Never Suffered’; and J.O. Morgan for ‘The Martian’s Regress’.


Kapil, who lives between the UK and US, where she spent 21 years at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, has six books of poetry/prose to her credit, including ‘The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers’, ‘Schizophrene’ and ‘Ban en Banlieue’. Earlier this year, she won the coveted American award, the Windham-Campbell Prize, in the poetry category in recognition of her literary achievements.

"The impact of receiving the Windham-Campbell Prize during a global pandemic is life-changing and life-supporting for myself and my family. I hope that I can use whatever relief or good that comes from having won such an honor to be of service, on-going, to those in more vulnerable situations than my own," she said, in reference to the honour.

Survival tunes

How to Wash a Heart’ is her first full-length collection to be published in the UK and is drawn from a performance in London last year. It has been praised for using poetry as a mode of interrogation.

“In a time of increasing hostility against migrants, Kapil demonstrates how survival tunes the guest to its host with devastating intimacy,” notes publisher Liverpool University Press, in reference to the work shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize.

The prize was inaugurated in 1993 to celebrate the Poetry Book Society’s 40th birthday and honour its founding poet, T.S. Eliot. It is awarded annually to the author of the best new collection of poetry, published in the UK and Ireland. The winner of this year’s prize, run by the T.S. Eliot Foundation, is expected to be unveiled in January 2021.

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