Sarah Howe FRSL (born 1983) is a Chinese–British poet, editor and researcher in English literature. Her first full poetry collection, Loop of Jade, won the T. S. Eliot Prize and the Sunday Times / Peters Fraser & Dunlop Young Writer of The Year Award. It is the first time that the T. S. Eliot Prize has been given to a debut collection. She is currently a Leverhulme Fellow in English at University College London, and a judge for the 2018 Griffin Poetry Prize.
Howe was born in 1983 in Hong Kong. Her father is English; her mother was born in China, but left the country in 1949 for Hong Kong. The family moved to the UK in 1991, when Howe was aged seven. Her first degree was in English at Christ's College, University of Cambridge, matriculating in 2001. She subsequently gained a PhD at that college; her thesis is entitled "Literature and the Visual Imagination in Renaissance England, 1580–1620". During her studies, she spent a year at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA, with a Kennedy Scholarship; it was there that she began to write poetry seriously at the age of around 21.
She spent five years as a research fellow at the Faculty of English and Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, until 2015. Her research there was in the area of 16th- and 17th-century English literature; her interests included relationships between poetry and visual art forms, including sculpture and architecture. In 2014, Howe founded the online poetry journal Prac Crit, and she continues to serve as one of its editors.
In 2015–16, she was the Frieda L. Miller Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study of Harvard University, where she focused on writing poetry. She is one of the judges of the 2015 National Poetry Competition of The Poetry Society.
Her first collection, Loop of Jade, was published by Chatto & Windus in 2015. It explores Howe's British and Chinese heritage, and in particular her mother's history as an abandoned female baby in China. The main sequence of poems is inspired by Jorge Luis Borges's fictional encyclopedia, The Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge.
The collection won the 2015 T. S. Eliot Prize—the first time this award has been given to a debut collection—as well as the 2015 Sunday Times / Peters Fraser & Dunlop Young Writer of The Year Award. It was also shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. Loop of Jade was described by T. S. Eliot Prize chair Pascale Petit as "absolutely amazing"; Petit predicted that Howe's creative use of form would "change British poetry." Andrew Holgate, literary editor of The Sunday Times, describes Loop of Jade as "a work of astonishing originality, depth and scope."
As of 2015–16, Howe was working on a sequence called Two Systems, which examines China's interaction with the West and the recent history of Hong Kong, in particular the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement. The work uses techniques that include the incorporation of found documents, such as the constitution of Hong Kong, reworked by erasing material.
Her poetry has appeared in several anthologies, including three editions of The Best British Poetry (Salt), Dear World & Everyone In It: New Poetry in the UK (Bloodaxe; 2013) and Ten: The New Wave (Bloodaxe; 2014). Her sonnet "Relativity", commissioned for the 2015 National Poetry Day, was recorded by physicist Stephen Hawking, also a fellow of Gonville and Caius College. His book A Brief History of Time had inspired Howe as a teenager.
List of major works
- Loop of Jade (poetry), Paperback - 2015
- Debut collection scoops T S Eliot Prize, Poetry Book Society, archived from the original on 31 January 2016, retrieved 13 January 2016
- Sarah Howe – Biography, retrieved 12 January 2016
- 2015 Winner, Sunday Times / Peters Fraser & Dunlop Young Writer of The Year, retrieved 12 January 2016
- Sarah Howe, Forward Arts Foundation, retrieved 12 January 2016
- Sarah Howe (12 August 2013), "I. To China: That Blue Flower on the Map", Best American Poetry, retrieved 13 January 2016
- Sarah Howe (m 2001), Young Writer of the Year, Christ's College, Cambridge, retrieved 12 January 2016[permanent dead link]
- Dr Sarah Howe, Gonville and Caius, Faculty of English, University of Cambridge, retrieved 12 January 2016
- Mark Reynolds, "Sarah Howe: Remaking memory", bookanista.com, retrieved 13 January 2016
- Prestigious award for Caian poet, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, retrieved 12 January 2016
- "Judges", National Poetry Competition, The Poetry Society, retrieved 12 January 2016
- Prac Crit: About, retrieved 12 January 2016
- Sarah Howe, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, retrieved 12 January 2016
- Sarah Howe – Pamphlet, retrieved 12 January 2016
- The Eric Gregory Trust Fund Awards: Past Winners, retrieved 12 January 2016
- Alison Flood, "Poet Sarah Howe named young writer of the year", The Guardian, retrieved 12 January 2016
- Kate Potts (23 July 2015), Sarah Howe, Poetry International Rotterdam, retrieved 12 January 2016
- George Jackson (31 July 2015), "Review: Loop of Jade – Sarah Howe", Ambit
- Brown M (11 January 2016), "TS Eliot prize: poet Sarah Howe wins with 'amazing' debut", The Guardian, retrieved 12 January 2016
- Sarah Shaffi (8 June 2015), "Forward Prizes shortlists revealed", The Bookseller, retrieved 13 January 2016
- National Poetry Day 2015: Light, retrieved 12 January 2016
- Sarah Howe (8 October 2015), "On "Relativity"", The Paris Review, retrieved 12 January 2016
- Flood, Alison (2018-06-28). "Royal Society of Literature admits 40 new fellows to address historical biases". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-07-03.