Waltham Forest Echo

Waltham Forest Echo

Walthamstow poet wins £25K national prize

Local poet Joelle Taylor has won the UK's most valuable poetry prize

Hero for Walthamstow poet wins £25K national prize
Joelle Taylor (credit: Roman Manfredi)
By Victoria Munro 11 January 2022

A Walthamstow poet has won a national prize worth £25,000, previously held by poets like Ted Hughes and Carol Ann Duffy.

Joelle Taylor was awarded the T.S. Eliot prize last night for her collection C+nto & Othered Poems, inspired by 90s butch lesbian counterculture and published by Westbourne Press.

Joelle is a huge name in the borough's poetry scene and was the judge of last year's annual poetry competition, which featured in this month's Echo.

Speaking to the Guardian, judge chair Glyn Maxwell described C+nto as a "blazing book of rage and light, a grand opera of liberation from the shadows of indifference and oppression".

(Credit: Roman Manfredi)

Joelle spoke to the Echo after her collection was first shortlisted last year, explaining that the collection was a response to a rise in homophobic violence in the UK and abroad, particularly the stories told by documentaries like HBO’s Welcome to Chechnya.

She said: “We’re in an interesting place in history and this book is a warning as well as a celebration. A lot of the elders say the same thing, that they can feel something coming and it’s time for a call to arms.

“Queer poetry is really necessary to own and tell our narratives, it’s a way of bringing us together and recognising what could happen. [The LGBT community is] weak at the moment because we are distracted and atomised, we need to come back to the nucleus.”

She considers the widespread closure of LGBT venues to be a particular threat to community cohesion but highlighted Walthamstow Trades Hall as a great local example of an attempt to recover some of what has been lost.

She said: “The sense that we had of an outside threat was so real... and we all ended up in the same pubs at night. That doesn’t seem to exist anymore and it’s making us vulnerable.

"When you are more accepted into wider society, you also have the danger of losing the things that made you a radical movement.”

Joelle is currently working on a stage adaptation of C+nto and will perform it as a one-person show in Australia this year.