Newcomer Sean Borodale joins major names including Sharon Olds and Kathleen Jamie and Simon Armitage
A "fresh, bold" shortlist for the TS Eliot prize for poetry pits Sean Borodale's first collection against major names Simon Armitage, Sharon Olds and Kathleen Jamie.
Borodale, a poet and artist who writes documentary poems on location, was chosen for Bee Journal, a poem-journal which tells the life of a bee hive. Writing in the Guardian, Armitage chose it as one of his books of 2011, saying that "like the honey he describes, 'disconcerting, / solid broth / of forest flora full of fox', these are poems so dense and rich you could stand a spoon in them". Armitage himself was shortlisted for The Death of King Arthur, a translation of a 15th-century poem, Olds for Stag's Leap, about the end of her marriage, and Jamie for The Overhaul, the poet's first collection since 2004's Forward prize-winning The Tree House.
This year, a record 131 books were submitted by publishers for the TS Eliot award, one of the UK's top poetry prizes, which comes with a cheque of £15,000, donated by Eliot's widow Valerie Eliot, for the winner. Won in the past by Seamus Heaney, Derek Walcott and Ted Hughes, last year's prize proved controversial after the shortlisted poets Alice Oswald and John Kinsella both withdrew in protest at the award's new sponsorship by investment management firm Aurum Funds. John Burnside was eventually named winner, and the award continues to be supported by Aurum.
This year, a female-heavy line-up shortlists national poet of Wales Gillian Clarke for Ice, about winter, Jorie Graham for P L A C E, which has just won the Forward prize, and Julia Copus for the highly personal The World's Two Smallest Humans. Last year Clarke judged the TS Eliot, and called it the "most demanding of all poetry prizes". The shortlist consists of six collections chosen by the judges, rounded out by another four which have been this year's quarterly selections for the Poetry Book Society.
Carol Ann Duffy, chair of this year's judges, said she was "delighted with a shortlist which sparkles with energy, passion and freshness and which demonstrates the range and variety of poetry being published in the UK".
"I think it's fresh and bold … There's nothing clichéd about our list," agreed her fellow judge and poet Michael Longley. "We paid no attention whatsoever to gender or reputation or to who the publishers might be, we just went on the words on the page."
Longley, also joined on the panel by the poet David Morley, expressed regret that Andrew Motion's The Custom House, and William Letford's Bevel, hadn't quite made it onto the final shortlist. "The Andrew Motion book was very, very good, his best so far – a moving sequence about the first world war," said Longley. "And Bevel was kind of word perfect – an extraordinary first book. I found it very refreshing and I think he'll be a contender with his second book."
The winner will be announced on 14 January.
The Death of King Arthur by Simon Armitage (Faber)
Bee Journal by Sean Borodale (Jonathan Cape)
Ice by Gillian Clarke (Carcanet)
The World's Two Smallest Humans by Julia Copus (Faber)
The Dark Film by Paul Farley (Picador)
P L A C E by Jorie Graham (Carcanet)
The Overhaul by Kathleen Jamie (Picador)
Stag's Leap by Sharon Olds (Jonathan Cape)
The Havocs by Jacob Polley (Picador)
Burying the Wren by Deryn Rees-Jones (Seren)