John Burnside wins 2011 TS Eliot Prize poetry prize

Scottish poet wins second high-profile literary prize in four months

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John Burnside wins 2011 TS Eliot Prize poetry prize

Scottish poet John Burnside has been named the winner of the 2011 T.S. Eliot Prize poetry prize just four months after being awarded the Forward prize for poetry.

His 12th collection, Black Cat Bone, was announced as the winner of the £15,000 prize on Monday at Haberdashers' Hall in London, beating a shortlist of high-profile poets including Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, Sean O'Brien and David Harsent.

He told the BBC "I really was surprised, I was actually stunned that they chose me… when they said my name I thought there had been a mistake."

Burnside chose to read a poem rather than give a speech as he accepted the award from Eliot's widow, Valerie.

Chair of the judging panel, poet Gillian Clarke, described Burnside's collection as “a haunting book of great beauty... In an exceptional year, it is an outstanding book, one which the judges felt grew with every reading.”

The shortlist also included Leontia Flynn, Esther Morgan, Daljit Nagra and Bernard O'Donoghue. Two other nominees, Alice Oswald and John Kinsella, withdrew from the competition in December after funding from Aurum, a private investment company, was announced for the prize.

In previous years it has been funded by Eliot's estate, but this year organisers announced they would lose the Arts Council grant that pays management costs, so alternative funding was sought.

Launched 18 years ago, the competition is run by the Poetry Book Society (PBS). It is awarded each year to "the best collection of new verse in English first published in the UK or the Republic of Ireland". The prize money is donated by Valerie Eliot and each nominee also receives £1,000. On the evening before the prize is announced, the short listed poets give a public reading of their work.

Director of the Scottish Poetry Library, Robyn Marsack, said this was an excellent start to 2012 for Scottish poetry: "We're delighted about John Burnside winning the TS Eliot Prize, as we were when he won the Forward Prize last year: a black cat is certainly lucky for him!

The profile of Scottish poets is deservedly very high. All reasons to be cheerful as the year begins."

Burnside was born in Dunfermline in 1955 and lives in Fife. A former computer software engineer, he now teaches at the University of St. Andrews and is a writer of short stories, poetry and fiction.

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