The prestigious TS Eliot Prize 2022 has been awarded to Anthony Joseph for his “luminous collection” Sonnets for Albert.
The £25,000 prize – Britain’s most lucrative poetry award – is awarded annually to the writer of the best new poetry collection published in the UK and Ireland, with past winners including Ted Hughes, Carol Ann Duffy, and Seamus Heaney.
The Trinidad-born poet Joseph, 56, was announced as the winner of the Prize on Monday (16 January) at London’s Wallace Collection by Chair and judge of the Prize, Jean Sprackland.
Talking about why the judges picked Sonnets For Albert (Bloomsbury) as the winner, Sprackland described Joseph’s work as “a luminous collection which celebrates humanity in all its contradictions and breathes new life into this enduring form”.
Last year’s winner was Joelle Taylor for her collection C+nto & Othered Poems (The Westbourne Press).
The prize was founded by TS Eliot’s widow Valerie in 1993 and described by Andrew Motion as “the prize most poets want to win” while The Independent dubbed it the “world’s top poetry award”.
It is the only major poetry prize judged solely by established poets. The winner was chosen out of 10 shortlisted writers who will each receive £1,500.
The shortlist included Victoria Adukwei with Quiet (Faber and Faber); Fiona Benson with Ephemeron (Cape); Jemma Borg with Wilder (Pavilion); Philip Gross with The Thirteenth Angel (Bloodaxe); Zaffar Kunial with England’s Green (Faber); Mark Pajak with Slide (Jonathan Cape); James Conor Patterson with Bandit Country (Picador); Denise Saul with The Room Between Us (Pavilion); and Yomi Sode with Manorism (Penguin).
Sprackland said that “each of the ten books on this year’s shortlist spoke powerfully to us in its own distinctive voice”.
In Sonnets For Albert, Joseph returns to the autobiographic material of his former work, Bird Head Son in 2009, in which he explores the legacy of being the son of an absent but larger-than-life Trinidadian father.
Sonnets For Albert was also shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Poetry in 2022.
Joseph who has lived in London since 1989, is a poet, novelist, academic, and musician. His previous poetry collections include Desafinado (1994), Teragaton (1998), and Rubber Orchestras (2011).
He has also written three novels: The African Origins of UFOs (2006), Kitch: A Fictional Biography of a Calypso Icon (2018), and The Frequency of Magic (2019).
As a musician he has released seven well-received albums since 2009; these often coincide with the publication of his poetry collections.
He also performs as the lead vocalist for his band, The Spasm Band. His written work and performance are inspired by calypso, surrealism, jazz, and the rhythms of Caribbean speech.