19 January 2017 14:35

A Lancaster University graduate, who won the prestigious T S Eliot prize, said his experience here had taught him long-lasting lessons about being a writer.

Jacob Polley, who studied English at Lancaster from 1993 to 1996 and then studied for an MA in English and Creative Writing in 1997, was awarded the £20,000 prize for ‘Jackself’, a collection of poetry described by the judges as ‘a firework of a book’.

“At Lancaster, I learned what it might be to be a writer and I've fed on that lesson ever since,” said Jacob.

‘Jackself’ is Jacob’s fourth collection of poetry which ‘spins a fictionalized autobiography' through nursery rhymes, riddles and cautionary tales, and through the many 'Jacks' of folktale, legend, phrase and fable including Jackdaw, Jack-O-Lantern, Jack Sprat, Cheapjack and Jack Frost.

Jacob was announced as the winner of the UK’s most valuable poetry prize at a ceremony on Monday evening at the Wallace Collection Gallery in London.

The book was chosen from a 10-strong shortlist including the winner of the 2015 Forward prize, Vahni Capildeo, and previous T S Eliot prizewinner Alice Oswald.

Chair of the judging panel Ruth Padel said the collection was ‘incredibly inventive and very moving’.

Jacob, who was born in 1975 in Carlisle, was among 20 to be named the Next Generation of best British poets by the Poetry Book Society in 2004 on the strength of his first collection.

He has also written a novel, Talk of the Town, which won the 2010 Somerset Maugham award, and worked on a short film, Keeping House, about the history of a cockle-selling shop in Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Now a lecturer at Newcastle University, Jacob is the 23rd winner of the prize founded by T S Eliot’s widow, Valerie, in 1993 and which is now run by the T S Eliot Foundation.

In 2011, Jacob was Arts Queensland’s poet-in-residence, and he was Visiting Fellow Commoner in the Arts at Trinity College, Cambridge, 2005 to 2007. He has also held residencies at the Civitella Ranieri Foundation and at the Wordsworth Trust.