Philip Gross: TS Eliot Prize a “coming of age”

Philip Gross courtesy of Zélie Gross

Philip Gross courtesy of Zélie Gross

TS Eliot Prize winner, Philip Gross, who beat off competition from better-known poets last night to take the £15,000 prize, hailed his victory as a “coming of age” today.

The 57 year old has not won a major poetry award for 28 years, but last night took the largest cash prize in British poetry for his collection inspired by the Bristol Channel, The Water Table.

Gross said: “It was a strange feeling, a bit like a coming of age, which is an odd thing to find myself saying at the age of 57. It’s like growing up as a poet actually.”

He added that he had not been “in the slightest bit” confident of winning, but was pleased to be on the shortlist amongst his peers, some of whom he said were his elders in terms of worldly reputation, if not of age.

Simon Armitage, chair of the judging panel, praised Gross’ patient and metaphysical work in The Water Table and its substantial and powerful poems at last night’s ceremony.

Gross wrote his sixth collection for Bloodaxe Books over the last five years, while teaching near the Severn Estuary at Glamorgan University.

Neil Astley, editor of Bloodaxe said: “I feel it’s long deserved recognition … Just being shortlisted for the prize raises your profile and sales immediately, and winning it really makes a big difference.”

Former winners of the prize include Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney, as well as Alice Oswald and Hugo Williams, who were both shortlisted for this year’s prize.

To read my interview with Philip Gross in full, click here.

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