Jason Allen-Paisant

Jason Allen-Paisant wins T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry 2023

Jason Allen-Paisant’s Self-Portrait as Othello was declared the winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry 2023 in London, UK on Monday, January 15, 2024.

T.S. Eliot, full name Thomas Stearns Eliot had the poetry collections Prufrock and Other Observations (1917), Ara Vos Prec (London) and Poems: 1920 (New York). The United States-born poet, who passed away in 1965, was also an essayist, publisher, playwright, and literary and social critic.

The T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry was founded to celebrate the UK Poetry Book Society’s 40th birthday and honour its founding poet in 1993. It is awarded annually to the author of the best new collection of poetry published in the UK and Ireland. Previous winners include Derek Walcott (2010), John Burnside (2011), Sharon Olds (2012), Sinéad Morrissey (2013), David Harsent (2014) Sarah Howe (2015), Jacob Polley (2016), Ocean Vuong (2017), and Hannah Sullivan (2018). Anthony Joseph won the award last year.

The jury for 2023 comprised of Paul Muldoon (Chair), Sasha Dugdale and Denise Saul revealed the shortlist on October 3 before the winner Jason Allen-Paisant for Self-Portrait as Othello (Carcanet Press) was announced on Monday.

“Self-Portrait As Othello is a book with large ambitions that are met with great imaginative capacity, freshness and technical flair,” said the judging panel.

Jason accepted the prize by reading from his book, and by speaking against the war in Gaza, which has preoccupied him and many of us over these last few months.

Here is the blurb for the book, get info on it here, which also won the Forward Prize for Poetry last year;

Jason Allen-Paisant’s Self-Portrait as Othello

Jason Allen-Paisant’s debut collection Thinking With Trees won the 2022 OCM Bocas Prize for poetry and was an Irish Times and White Review Book of the Year 2021. In Poetry London Maryam Hessavi wrote, ‘Jason Allen-Paisant is uncompromising when digging down through the undergrowth of our imperialist past – and yet he succeeds in replanting new narratives in the same soil where these toxic ideologies used to, and still, reside.’

The interlocking poems of his second collection, Self-Portrait as Othello, imagine Othello in the urban landscapes of modern London, Paris and Venice and invent the kinds of narrative he might tell about his intersecting identities. Poetic memoir and ekphrastic experiment, Self-Portrait as Othello focuses on a character at once fictional and real. Othello here represents a structure of feeling that was emerging in seventeenth-century Venice, and is still with us.

Portraiting himself as Othello, Allen-Paisant refracts his European travels and considers the Black male body, its presence, transgressiveness and vulnerabilities. Othello’s intertwined identities as ‘immigrant’ and ‘Black’, which often operate as mutually reinforcing vectors, speak to us in the landscape of twenty-first-century Europe.

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