Trinidadian wins prestigious T S Elliot Prize

Roger Robinson, who lives between Britain and Trinidad, Monday night won the prestigious T S Elliot Prize for his poetry collection, “A Portable Paradise”.

Robinson, a writer and performer, won the £25,000 prize from a field that also included the previous winner Sharon Olds and début poets Anthony Anaxagorou and Jay Bernard.

Roger Robinson was awarded for his poetry collection “A Portable Paradise”. (Photo: The Guardian)

He was the unanimous choice of the judges -John Burnside, Sarah Howe and Nick Makoha – with Burnside, who chaired the panel noting “this ambitious and wide-ranging shortlist speaks to all that poetry can be.

“The winner, Roger Robinson’s A Portable Paradise, finds in the bitterness of everyday experience continuing evidence of ‘sweet, sweet life,” he added.

“Part of the thing I have tried to do is to try and create situations where black and minority ethnic writers can be seen.”

— Roger Robinson, Poet, Winner of T S Elliot Prize

Robinson is an alumnus of The Complete Works and was a co-founder of both Spoke Lab and the international writing collective Malika’s Kitchen. He is the lead vocalist and lyricist for King Midas Sound and has previously won the People’s Book Prize and the Oxford Brookes Poetry Prize.

His first full poetry collection, The Butterfly Hotel was shortlisted for The OCM Bocas Poetry Prize in Trinidad.

“If I could get people who look like me to start reading and writing poetry then this award means the world to me.”

— Roger Robinson, Poet, Winner of T S Elliot Prize

“I’ve been practising poetry on a big level for 25 years. To some extent when I started a lot of black and minority ethnic writers were not visible so part of the thing I have tried to do is to try and create situations where black and minority ethnic writers can be seen,” Robinson said.

“If I could get people who look like me to start reading and writing poetry then this award means the world to me. If I can be an example to start a whole revolution of people who thought they can’t be poets, they can’t write, they can’t be literary, or they can’t move from an open mic performance if you think you can’t move from there to there, you can. Let me be an example,” he added.

Robinson has been writing poetry for over 25 years. (Photo: Roger Robinson – Instagram)

Commenting on the others who were shortlisted, Robinson said “they all are genius, any one of them could have easily had it. All of them champion writers, it was just luckily my time.”

Each shortlisted poet was presented with a cheque for £1,500 in recognition of their achievement in winning a place on the most prestigious shortlist in UK poetry.