She’s been marginalised and slapped in the street – but Taylor’s passionate and nostalgic poems about butch lesbian subculture just won the TS Eliot prize. Can they also heal the divisions over gender identity?
Since winning the TS Eliot award for poetry last week, Joelle Taylor has been referred to on more than one occasion as a “slam poet”. Which, she says, is fascinating: “Because there’s no such thing as a slam poet.” A poetry slam is an event, a spoken-word competition, she adds, not a type of poetry.
Taylor, who was named UK performance poetry slam champion in 2000 and founded the national youth slam championships SLAMbassadors, is forgiving, though: “It’s just a way of people trying to understand a different kind of poetry.” But it’s clear that this need to distinguish spoken word from other forms of poetry has a whiff of snobbery about it.