Bhanu Kapila wins TS Eliot poetry prize for her sixth book “How to Wash a Heart”

Bhanu Kapila Wins Ts Eliot Poetry Prize For Her Sixth Book “How To Wash A Heart”

One of Britain’s most renowned literary awards, the TS Eliot Poetry award 2020 was won by a British-Indian origin Bhanu Kapila. Her radical collection of ‘How to Wash a Heart’ depicting some uncomfortable truths between an immigrant and its white middle-class host was selected unanimously by a jury of three.

“It beat works by poets including JO Morgan and Natalie Diaz to the £25,000 prize,” Guardian report.

The 53-year-old writer said that the inspiration for the book was a photograph she saw in a newspaper, of a couple in California who had opened their home to a guest “with a precarious visa status”.

“What caught my attention was the tautness of the muscles around the mouths of these hosts. Perhaps they were simply nervous about being photographed. Nevertheless, the soft tissue contraction of those particular muscles are at odds (when visible) to a smile itself,” she said in an interview with her publisher.

“I didn’t know I was going to write a book, so swiftly, and so I didn’t retain that photograph. Nevertheless, I immediately began to imagine (fictionalise) a story of hospitality, of being welcomed and welcoming in, that is also ‘at odds’ to the situation itself. For me, this was also a way to write about the discrepancy between being in spaces that, outwardly, present themselves as inclusive, open to outsiders or minority presences, but which, in the lived experience of inhabiting them, is excruciating.”

Chair of judges, the poet Lavinia Greenlaw said, “This is a unique work that exemplifies how poetry can be tested and remade to accommodate uncomfortable and unresolvable truths,” adding: “It’s a book that one of the judges said, ‘Every time you start it, you have to finish it.’ There’s nothing like it.”

Poets Mona Arshi and Andrew McMillan were the other two panellists who were equally gripped by Kapila’s work.

Prior to this, Kapil had published other books such as I Go to Some HollowIncubation: A Space for MonstersThe vertical interrogation of strangers, among others. Her latest book How To Wash A Heart was published in the UK.

Featured image: Jamie Clifford/The Guardian

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