The coveted TS Eliot Poetry Prize 2021 goes to poet, performer, and author, Joelle Taylor
The TS Elliot prize for poetry is awarded by the Poetry Book Society of the UK to an outstanding collection of poetry published in the UK or Ireland. Awarded since 1993, the TS Eliot prize is coveted amongst poets. This year, the prize goes to Joelle Taylor and her collection C+nto & Othered Poems.
Known for being a slam poet, Taylor isn’t new to the poetry scene. C+nto is actually her fourth collection. But what makes this collection award-winning is it’s a unique mixture of memoir and conjecture. Offering a look at the underground communities of women reclaiming their own bodies, Taylor’s poems discuss her life as a butch lesbian.
Joelle Taylor’s C+nto and Othered Poems, a blazing book of rage, and light, a grand opera of liberation from the shadows of indifference and oppression
C+nto & Othered Poems, by Joelle Taylor
Diving into the world of butch counterculture, this collection explores sexuality and gender in a truly poetic way. Taylor’s poetry is lyrical, imagistic, and intimate while also being expansive in a way that allows readers to step foot into her world. These poems are more than just stories, they are experiences.
Each poem enters the lives of the women who make up this underground community. Determined to reclaim their bodies, these women found their own way to survive in a world that didn’t agree with them. They led protests. They rebelled. Most importantly, they found a way to live a life of self-expression. This collection is a love poem to these women and to Taylor herself.
I won the TS Eliot Prize last night. I was a triumphant moment of visibility for butch women.
The TS Eliot prize shortlist was extremely competitive this year. Taylor managed to move past poets such as Ted Hughes, Carol Ann Duff, and Bhanu Kapil. As a former spoken word champion and founder of SLAMbassadors, perhaps her background in performance put her over the edge. Or, perhaps, it’s the way she beautifully tells the stories of the women she interviewed for this collection.
In the preface of this collection, she writes that being a butch lesbian was bad when she was a teenager, and it is still bad today. When she came out she was subjected to “constant state-endorsed abuse,” which should never happen to anyone. Today people are still being exiled for their gender and sexual identities, which makes voices like Taylor’s so important.
Be sure to check out Taylor’s other collections: Songs My Enemy Taught Me, Ska Tissue, and The Woman Who Was Not There.
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Photo by Joshua Coleman on Unsplash.
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