Roger Robinson wins $42K T.S. Eliot Prize for 'searing' collection, A Portable Paradise

The British-Trinidadian poet's second collection A Portable Paradise "finds in the bitterness of everyday experience continuing evidence of 'sweet, sweet life.'"
Poet and musician Roger Robinson won the T.S. Eliot Prize for A Portable Paradise. (T.S. Eliot Prize, Peepal Tree Press)

Roger Robinson's second poetry collection, A Portable Paradise, has won the 2019 T.S. Eliot Prize, a £25,000 (approx. $42,675 Cdn) award given annually to the year's best work of poetry.

A Portable Paradise collects poems that tell stories of the complicated nature of family, as well as racism and class tensions in London and the Grenfell Tower fire. 

The prize describes it as a "scathing polemic and meditation on love."

"Roger Robinson finds in the bitterness of everyday experience continuing evidence of 'sweet, sweet life,'" said the jury chair, John Burnside, in a press release.

Robinson splits his time between the U.K. and Trinidad and Tobago, where he was born. He's also an actor and the lead vocalist for the band King Midas Sound.

His other books include the poetry book The Butterfly Hotel and short fiction collection Adventures in 3D.

Robinson's book was selected unanimously by judges Burnside, Sarah Howe and Nick Makoha from a shortlist of 10.

Canadian Karen Solie was a finalist for her latest book, The Caiplie Caves.

The Caiplie Caves is a portrait of an Irish missionary named Ethernan, who, in the seventh century, withdrew to a cave in Scotland to ponder whether he should pursue a hermit's life or found a priory. Solie adopts an intersectional look at the realities of war, religious colonization and ideas of progress, power and corruption.

The T.S. Eliot Prize has been award annually since 1993. 

Only one Canadian has previously won the prize, Anne Carson was recognized in 2001 for her book The Beauty of the Husband.


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