Joelle Taylor


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Joelle Taylor won the T. S. Eliot Award in 2022 with C+NTO & OTHERED POEMS. Prior to the pandemic, she completed a world tour with her collection Songs My Enemy Taught Me. She founded SLAMbassadors, the UK national youth poetry slam championships, as well as the international spoken-word project Borderlines. She is widely anthologised, the author of 4 collections of poetry. She has received a Changemaker Award from the Southbank Centre, a Fellowship of the RSA, and her poem Valentine was Highly Commended in the Forward Prize. She is a co-curator and host of Out-Spoken Live, a poetry and music club currently resident at the Southbank Centre; and the commissioning editor at Out-Spoken Press. She was made a Fellow of the Royal Literature Society in 2022. 

Forthcoming publication

THE NIGHT ALPHABET - riverrun - 15th Feb 2024
The tattoo was a reclamation, a flag we mounted in the centre of our own landscape.

A woman walks into a tattoo parlour. But this is no ordinary woman, and this is Hackney in 2233. Jones' body is covered in tattoos but she wants to add one final inking to her gallery - a thin line of ink mixed with blood that connects her body art together, creating a unique map.

As the two artists set to work, Jones tells them the story behind each tattoo. As Jones is no ordinary woman, these are no ordinary stories: each one represents a doorway to a life Jones fell into, a 'remembering'. Some of these lives were in the past, others in the future, some are sideways, but each of them connects Jones to the two tattoo artists in some way, though they are unaware of it.

We visit the dystopian cities of the Quiet Men, the coal mines of 19th century Lancashire, join a gang of vigilante sex workers, enter the world of an INCEL murderer, haunt the old Maryville gay bar, and uncover plans to genetically modify female children. Each of the stories brings us closer to Jones' truth, and how her life is intricately interwoven with that of the women tattooing her body.

Set across geographies and timespans, The Night Alphabet is a dazzlingly bold and original work, a deep investigation into human nature and violence against women.


'Joelle Taylor has a Midas touch with words' - Diana Souhami

Joelle Taylor’s debut novel The Night Alphabet is phenomenal. This book is exhilarating, profoundly beautiful and exquisitely written, it is poetic, empowered, courageous. The Night Alphabet is an inspired piece of truly magical and brilliant story telling'. - Salena Godden

The Night Alphabet is a glorious jewel of a novel, rich with language and story, that glows in your mind’s eye long after you have set it down. Taylor manages to combine her vivid poetry with a truly engaging tale of female resilience, an Illustrated Woman for our times.’ - Sophie Ward

 ‘This hugely imaginative debut by TS Elliott-prizewinning poet Taylor pulls no punches... a fierce, tender – at times highly uncomfortable – study of power, agency and resilience.’ - Marie Claire, Best Books of 2024
‘A mesmerising debut from one of the most talented literary stylists writing today.’ - The Bookseller

Previous publications:

C+NTO & Othered Poems - Westbourne Press - 15th June 2021



An electrifying collection of poetry exploring the underground lesbian culture by a pioneer of the British spoken word scene.

The female body is a political space. Cunto enters the private lives of characters from the butch counterculture, telling the inside story of the protests these women led to reclaim their bodies as their own for self-expression and against hatred. History, magic, rebellion, party and sermon vibrate through Joelle Taylor's cantos, which celebrate these underground communities throughout the '90s.

Taylor writes into the silence surrounding masculine women and shows how personal narrative can become a political act. Part-memoir and part-conjecture, she explores sexuality and gender in poetry that is lyrical, expansive, imagistic, epic and intimate. Cunto is a love poem, a riot, a late night and an honouring.

Joelle on winning the T.S. Eliot Award: "Having this hidden narrative honoured by the literary establishment is a watershed moment for British contemporary poetry. It is not only a miraculous moment for me as a writer and artist, not only a real moment of visibility for a marginalised sexuality, but also a game changer for those who come from working class backgrounds and who have always built the stages we perform on. While any prize nomination would be mind-blowing, the TS Eliot Prize for Poetry has a resonance that many other awards do not. It is the prize that all poets want to win, partly because they are judged by the most erudite and prestigious names in the craft."

‘On Monday night, Taylor won the £25,000 TS Eliot Prize, poetry’s equivalent of the Booker, for her superb C+nto & Othered Poems, joining the ranks of previous winners including Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes. It’s a life-changing moment, “a validation, a vindication of 30 years’ hard work” for the 54-year-old, who has followed a long, rocky road to reach this point. She speaks with passion about how poetry can change lives, but doesn’t take herself seriously.’ The Telegraph


'Meaty, inventive, powerfully moving work' - The Telegraph  

‘This writing is visionary – I was taken to the heart of a dense poetic history, saw every image as though I were living it. What a powerful thing to experience in a book. I loved it.’ Hollie McNish

'An excellent book of poetry by JOELLE TAYLOR exploring how some lesbian women’s histories, political destinies, safety and survival are tied to their physical identity' - the Morning Star

Bernadine Evaristo's pick of the year, 2021, in the TLS and the New Statesman

'I won the TS Eliot Prize last night. It was a triumphant moment of visibility for butch women.' -- Joelle Taylor, The Independent

'unlike anything I’ve ever read before. Partly autobiographical, it excavates, foregrounds and celebrates the lives of butch lesbians through the most memorable and often astonishing poetry that is at once epic and intimate.’ -- Bernardine Evaristo, TLS
'nothing short of a triumph.’ -- Idler

‘Written with equal parts love and anger, C+nto & Othered Poems hurls the reader through the doors of a lesbian bar in 1990s Soho.’ -- The Telegraph

"a blazing book of rage and light, a grand opera of liberation from the shadows of indifference and oppression.” -- Glyn Maxwell, Chair of Judges, T. S. Eliot Award


SONGS MY ENEMY TAUGHT ME - Out-Spoken Press - 10 July 2017


'Joelle Taylor's poetry roars and soars and conjures up the most extraordinary images ot express the unsayable, the shocking and ultimately the great compassion she feels for hte plight of women around the world' - Bernadine Evaristo

'Joelle Taylor, pioneer of the British spoken word scene, a gentlewoman that has us in her grips with every syllable, has written Songs My Enemy Taught Me - bringing to the fore her powerful signature style of storytelling. The book is as much personal as it is about where we are globally as women today. Taylor writes about childhood sexual assault and the subsequent journey of healing and recovery - and she does this with a microscopic lens that draws you to consider and reconsider what you think you know about the world around you.' - DIVA magazine

'An interesting read and a visual feast' - Poetry Review Journal

'A book of songs that must be heard; here is a triumphant call to arms and an epic and glorious read. This book is a riot, a protest for justice and peace' - Salena Godden

'an absolutely necessary poetry collection. It is essential for hte poet to sing our women selves into the world.' - Malika Booker

'One of the most edifying and crucial books on gender inequality I've ever read.' - Anthony Anaxagorou


Publication DetailsNotes

Outspoken Press

SONGS MY ENEMY TAUGHT ME is the third full collection from award-winning poet and playwright Joelle Taylor. The poems contained within see Taylor recount, for the first time, her own early experiences of abuse, moving on to traverse a range of afflictions faced by many women and girls around the world. After having worked for several years with survivors of sexual violence, incarcerated women and those living within conflict zones, we arrive at a poetry that is not only stylistically varied and masterful, but truly magnanimous in its approach in bringing female persecution to light.