Four Quartets Prize
Courtney Faye Taylor
Selected by Terrance Hayes, Hoa Nguyen, and Geoffrey G. O’Brien
The T. S. Eliot Foundation and the Poetry Society of America are pleased to announce that Courtney Faye Taylor is the winner of the 2023 Four Quartets Prize for her collection Concentrate (Graywolf Press, 2022).
She was selected by judges Terrance Hayes, Hoa Nguyen, and Geoffrey G. O’Brien, who hailed her work as “a statement of poetics as well as a vision of existential struggle . . . where the poet is detective and witness, poems as an accumulating series of lyric takes.”
The judges also named Brenda Hillman for “The Sickness & the World Soul” from her collection In a Few Minutes Before Later (Wesleyan University Press, 2022) and Gabriel Ojeda-Sagué for his book Madness (Nightboat Books, 2022).
Courtney Faye Taylor’s virtuoso Concentrate is not only an elegy to Latasha Harlins, it is a lyrical study of Black womanhood. From the opening line: “So far, my sentence as a Black woman has been hard to hone, homed in sore white pith,” we are presented with a statement of poetics as well as a vision of existential struggle. Latasha Harlins is more than a ghost here, she is a sister, muse, and doppelganger to the poet. The traditional first-person voice of a debut collection recedes as Taylor allows striking textual and visual experimentation to express and implicate. In many ways, this imaginative debut presents a lyrical documentary-style poetics, where the poet is detective and witness, poems as an accumulating series of lyric takes. Concentrate becomes both archivist’s field guide and an artist’s scrapbook; it becomes a bricolage of poetic invention remixing Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts’s Harlem Is Nowhere and Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee. Courtney Faye Taylor’s formal innovations would make this a groundbreaking debut whatever the subject. At the same time, the poet and Harlins feel mutually present in superb narrative poems and in striking mixed-media portraits of Black women. Taylor’s ingenuity is anchored in empathy. Saidiya Hartman said, “Care is the antidote to violence.” Concentrate is a work of brilliant rigorous care. It is one of the most daringly crafted and emotionally urgent books to emerge in recent years.