Jo Shapcott wins Costa Book of the Year prize
- 26 January 2011
- From the section Entertainment & Arts
Poet Jo Shapcott has won the Costa Book of the Year award for Of Mutability, a collection of poems partly inspired by her battle against breast cancer.
The writer told the BBC she was shocked by her win, saying "it was the last thing I was expecting".
The judges celebrated the 54-page book as "a celebration of life", adding they were "captivated" by Shapcott's poetry.
It is the second year in a row that a book of poetry has won the £30,000 prize.
Last year's prize was won by poet Christopher Reid for his collection A Scattering, a tribute to his late wife.
Shapcott's win came at the expense of favourite Edmund de Waal's family memoir, The Hare with Amber Eyes.
"The other books on the shortlist are so extraordinary," Shapcott said. "Poetry won last year so I thought, naturally, not poetry again."
She was accepting the award for poetry as a whole, she added, as she wanted to encourage more people to pay attention to the genre.
"There are lots of readers out there who might love poetry if they tried it but don't, because they don't think it is for them," she said.
Though inspired by her own experiences, Shapcott insisted her book was not just about her illness.
"It's about an experience of mortality - a life-changing experience - and in that way every reader can relate to that," she said.
Chairman of the judging panel, broadcaster Andrew Neil, said the book won the prize because it was "accessible".
"This is serious, proper poetry," he said. "When you get it into people's hands they're going to love it.
"They're going to read it again, read it out loud, and then they're going to demand that their friends buy it as well."
Londoner Shapcott has won several poetry prizes since publishing her first book in 1988, including the Commonwealth Poetry prize and Forward Poetry prize.
She is Professor of Creative Writing at Royal Holloway College at the University of London and is the current president of the Poetry Society.
The Costa Book of the Year award was selected from five previously announced winners of individual categories.
Each of the winners in the novel, biography, poetry, first novel and children's categories have already received £5,000.