Sunday, 21 April 2013

T S Eliot Prize Redux: Sam Willetts' 'Digging'

It seems that the reading for the 2010 T S Eliot Prize (in January 2011) was particularly memorable for me. When I thought of writing a couple of T S Eliot Prize Redux entries, the two that came most strongly to mind were from this reading.

I correctly picked the 2010 Prize winner as Derek Walcott, but I actually hedged my bets and privately decided that it would be either Walcott for White Egrets, or Sam Willetts for New Light for the Old Dark. I think that Willetts would also have been a very worthy winner. It was his debut collection and the poems trace various aspects and influences of his life - his family history, the Holocaust, the English countryside and the poetry of John Clare, love at first sight - and also his long struggle with heroin addiction. A poem which struck me with its terrible power was 'Digging'.

DIGGING (Sam Willetts)

'Digging' is a shocking poem, and shock value is not something I particularly seek out in art (unless it's the shock of the new). It has its place, though, and I think that the dreadful honesty of this poem was wrenching to all in the audience. The title 'Digging' would remind many of Seamus Heaney's very famous poem of the same title, and I wondered if it was deliberately chosen. I was glad that Willetts concluded with 'Coup de Foudre', which was lovely and self-explanatory.

In fact, you can listen to Sam Willetts' entire reading, including 'Digging', on this link (audio only):

Be prepared, and enjoy.

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