Walthamstow poet shortlisted for UK’s biggest cash prize

Her shortlisted collection tells the story of the 1990s underground lesbian scene
By Victoria Munro

Joelle Taylor, award-winning Walthamstow poet (credit: Roman Manfredi)
Joelle Taylor, award-winning Walthamstow poet (credit: Roman Manfredi)

A Walthamstow poet’s collection about butch lesbian counterculture has been shortlisted for arguably the most coveted prize in British poetry.

The T.S. Eliot Prize, previously won by Ted Hughes and Carol Ann Duffy, will announce which of ten shortlisted collections will win its £20,000 prize on 10th January.

Joelle Taylor, an award-winning slam poet and this year’s judge of the borough’s annual poetry competition, had her most recent collection C+nto & Othered Poems make the cut.

The collection tells the story of the 1990s underground lesbian scene, inspired by her own experiences, and is currently being adapted for the stage.

Responding to the news, Joelle said: ‘I’m overwhelmed… It feels like the pinnacle of 25 years as a live poet and it is especially gratifying that the shortlisting is for a book which explores the hidden history of a marginalised group, elevating their voices. 

“All our narratives are vital to create a strong, questioning and plural poetic community. I believe there is a bridge between live and published works and am grateful that the judges have given me the opportunity to share it.’

Lynn Gaspard, from the collection’s publisher Westbourne Press, added: “Every once in a while, as a publisher, if you’re lucky, you receive a book that stops you in your tracks and that you know will make a difference. 

“Joelle’s performance of C+nto moved me to my core when I first heard her perform it several years ago. I was completely transfixed and transported by the power and rhythm of her words, which so poignantly relayed the pain and violence endured by butch lesbians – an experience not yet widely recognised.

“I cannot think of a writer more deserving of a T. S. Eliot Shortlist than Joelle, who has dedicated her working life to the advancement of poetry and spoken word in this country.”