Anthony Joseph, the second Trinidadian in three years to win the T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry

Janine Mendes-Franco (Global Voices) on Anthony Joseph, winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry:

The T.S. Eliot Prize, arguably one of the most prestigious in the poetry world, honours “the best collection of new verse in English first published in the UK or the Republic of Ireland.” Back in 2020, Trinidadian-British poet Roger Robinson won this prize for his poetry collection “A Portable Paradise.” A mere three years later, on January 16, fellow Trinidadian Anthony Joseph has followed in his footsteps with “Sonnets for Albert,” which the judges called “a luminous collection which celebrates humanity in all its contradictions and breathes new life into this enduring form.”

Joseph himself has said the book is “about loss and love.” Admitting his own father “wasn’t great as a dad,” Joseph explained that the collection helped him “make sense” of his father “and the impact of his absences.”

[. . .] Writing about his win for the Trinidad and Tobago Newsday newspaper, friend and fellow Trinidadian-British writer Monique Roffey, who in 2021 won the Costa book of the year for her “utterly original” Mermaid of Black Conch, noted that “Sonnets for Albert is Joseph’s masterwork and a major contribution to the contemporary Caribbean cannon”:

The poems, a collection of sonnets written in Trinidadian dialect, are both an examination of Caribbean masculinity and a composite portrait of a mostly absent father; they are a body of work which both holds his subject to account and also, stoically, understands.

When dealing with such an emotional subject, it is easy for the work to lose itself and become trite or maudlin, but Roffey lauded the collection for not “slid[ing] into sentimentality.”

Interestingly, Joseph shares a love of music with 2019’s winner. Robinson, whom the UK Guardian described as a “dub poet,” made a few albums with his band, King Midas Sound; Joseph, too, has a band. Noting that “Joseph was largely self-taught as a poet,” Roffey said that “from the get go, [he] identified with language, with creole dialect, and with literature in all its forms”:

He is a word man and a man who knew who his gods and goddesses were, early on, (WalcottBrathwaiteCarter and Audre Lorde) and he knew where home was, too, Trinidad.

Incidentally, Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott was awarded the T.S. Eliot prize in 2011 for White Egrets. [. . .]

For full article, see

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