Sarah Howe

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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.[1] She is currently a Leverhulme Fellow in English at University College London, as well as a trustee of The Griffin Trust For Excellence In Poetry.[2]


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.[3][4][5][6] 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".[7][8] 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.[5][8][9]

She spent five years as a research fellow at the Faculty of English and Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, until 2015.[8][10] 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.[8] In 2014, Howe founded the online poetry journal Prac Crit, and she continues to serve as one of its editors.[11][12]

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.[3][5][13] She is one of the judges of the 2015 National Poetry Competition of The Poetry Society.[11]


Howe's first poetry chapbook or pamphlet, A Certain Chinese Encyclopedia, was published by Tall Lighthouse in 2009.[14] It won a 2010 Eric Gregory Trust Fund Award for poets under 30.[15]

Her first collection, Loop of Jade, was published by Chatto & Windus in 2015.[3] It explores Howe's British and Chinese heritage,[4] and in particular her mother's history as an abandoned female baby in China.[16] The main sequence of poems is inspired by Jorge Luis Borges's fictional encyclopedia, The Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge.[17][18]

The collection won the 2015 T. S. Eliot Prize[1][19]—the first time this award has been given to a debut collection[1]—as well as the 2015 Sunday Times / Peters Fraser & Dunlop Young Writer of The Year Award.[4] It was also shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection.[20] 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."[19] Andrew Holgate, literary editor of The Sunday Times, describes Loop of Jade as "a work of astonishing originality, depth and scope."[4]

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.[9][13]

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).[5][13][17] 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.[4][21][22]

In June 2018 Howe was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in its "40 Under 40" initiative.[23]

List of major works[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Debut collection scoops T S Eliot Prize, Poetry Book Society, archived from the original on 31 January 2016, retrieved 13 January 2016
  2. ^ Griffin Poetry Prize / About / Trustees
  3. ^ a b c Sarah Howe – Biography, retrieved 12 January 2016
  4. ^ a b c d e 2015 Winner, Sunday Times / Peters Fraser & Dunlop Young Writer of The Year, retrieved 12 January 2016
  5. ^ a b c d Sarah Howe, Forward Arts Foundation, retrieved 12 January 2016
  6. ^ Howe, Sarah (12 August 2013), "I. To China: That Blue Flower on the Map", Best American Poetry, retrieved 13 January 2016
  7. ^ Sarah Howe (m 2001), Young Writer of the Year, Christ's College, Cambridge, retrieved 12 January 2016[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ a b c d Dr Sarah Howe, Gonville and Caius, Faculty of English, University of Cambridge, retrieved 12 January 2016
  9. ^ a b Reynolds, Mark, "Sarah Howe: Remaking memory",, retrieved 13 January 2016
  10. ^ Prestigious award for Caian poet, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, retrieved 12 January 2016
  11. ^ a b "Judges", National Poetry Competition, The Poetry Society, retrieved 12 January 2016
  12. ^ Prac Crit: About, retrieved 12 January 2016
  13. ^ a b c Sarah Howe, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, retrieved 12 January 2016
  14. ^ Sarah Howe – Pamphlet, retrieved 12 January 2016
  15. ^ The Eric Gregory Trust Fund Awards: Past Winners, archived from the original on 27 March 2014, retrieved 12 January 2016
  16. ^ Flood, Alison, "Poet Sarah Howe named young writer of the year", The Guardian, retrieved 12 January 2016
  17. ^ a b Potts, Kate (23 July 2015), Sarah Howe, Poetry International Rotterdam, retrieved 12 January 2016
  18. ^ Jackson, George (31 July 2015), "Review: Loop of Jade – Sarah Howe", Ambit
  19. ^ a b Brown, Mark (11 January 2016), "TS Eliot prize: poet Sarah Howe wins with 'amazing' debut", The Guardian, retrieved 12 January 2016
  20. ^ Shaffi, Sarah (8 June 2015), "Forward Prizes shortlists revealed", The Bookseller, retrieved 13 January 2016
  21. ^ National Poetry Day 2015: Light, retrieved 12 January 2016
  22. ^ Howe, Sarah (8 October 2015), "On "Relativity"", The Paris Review, retrieved 12 January 2016
  23. ^ Flood, Alison (28 June 2018). "Royal Society of Literature admits 40 new fellows to address historical biases". the Guardian. Retrieved 3 July 2018.

External links[edit]