TS Eliot prize row: is winner too young, beautiful – and Chinese?


Poet Sarah Howe’s 2016 TS Eliot prize win has been questioned by a sexist and sceptical literary press, but as the activity around the #derangedpoetess hashtag shows, we poets have had enough: The Guardian

KatyThe boys appear not to be happy.

When the UK’s top prize for poetry, the TS Eliot Prize, was awarded to first-time poet Sarah Howe for her book Loop of Jade (Chatto) earlier this month, a whoop of joy went up in the room. Later at the party, I heard someone say: “I wonder how long it will be before everyone begins to hate her.” Not long, as it happens.

Three dodgy newspaper articles and a trending Twitter hashtag – #derangedpoetess – later, literary press is making clear its views on poets who are a) women, b) young, c) well-educated, and d) not fully white. Howe ticks all boxes: she is 32, a Cambridge-educated academic currently at Harvard, and is half Chinese. Born in Hong Kong, she came to the UK when she was nine; Loop of Jade deals with her dual cultural heritage and her mother’s difficult family history. She also happens to be – it shouldn’t matter, but apparently it does – rather beautiful.

Venerable organ Private Eye leads the doughty charge, so outraged that the TS Eliot judges saw fit to “pointedly” award the £20,000 prize to a debut book that it accuses them of some kind of plot.

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