'A blazing book of rage and light': performance poet Joelle Taylor wins £20,000 TS Eliot Prize
Performance poet Joelle Taylor has won the £20,000 TS Eliot Prize for her collection C+nto and Othered Poems. The book is described as entering “the private lives of women from the butch counterculture, telling the inside story of the protests they led in the ‘90s to reclaim their bodies as their own – their difficult balance between survival and self-expression”. It was a shock to see a real poetry performance at the TS Eliots. Some poets hardly move a muscle when reading; Joelle Taylor moves every one, and recited many of her lines from memory at the Southbank Centre in London at the TS Eliot Prize readings on Sunday night - one of poetry's biggest nights of the year. Her win was announced at the award ceremony at the Wallace Collection in London on Monday night.
One memorable Joelle Taylor line was “Remember this: our whole lives are a protest.” The chair of judges, Glyn Maxwell, called her collection "a blazing book of rage and light".
Taylor also mentors the poetry of new and young poets. She is a former UK slam champion, who founded the UK’s youth slam championships, SLAMbassadors, in 2001.
She is an award-winning poet, playwright and author who has published three previous collections of poetry: Ska Tissue (Mother Foucault Press, 2011), The Woman Who Was Not There (Burning Eye Books, 2014) and Songs My Enemy Taught Me (Out-Spoken Press, 2017). She founded SLAMbassadors, the UK’s national youth slam championships, for the Poetry Society in 2001 and was its artistic director and national coach until 2018. She is the host of a London night of poetry and music, Out-Spoken, currently resident at the Southbank. She has published three plays and a collection of short stories. Se has led workshops and residencies in schools, prisons, youth centres, refugee groups, and other settings. C+nto & Othered Poems was published in 2021 by The Westbourne Press.
At the end of a wide-ranging interview with the TS Eliot Foundation, she was asked how it felt to be shortlisted for the prize. She breaks down momentarily, and then says: "It's an overwhelming feeling ... we don't get things like this ... it's a magnificent thing."