I couldn’t have been happier that John Burnside won this year’s T S Eliot prize. The Scottish poet is one of my favourites – I have his ‘Selected Poems’ next to my bed, along with Robert Lowell, Ted Hughes, Eavan Boland and Rita Dove. All are more or less fixtures there.
I’m also a big fan of David Harsent’s poetry – he was short-listed for the award.
In fact, it was a strong field of contenders, notwithstanding the fact that Alice Oswald and John Kinsella pulled out.
With 11 collections to his name, Burnside is a heavyweight, inhabiting his language like a boxer whose fists are probably most at home in his gloves. Here is his account of why he writes – and why winning the T S Eliot prize made him rethink his purpose.