Courtney Faye Taylor Wins 2021 Cave Canem Poetry Prize

Black and white photograph of Courtney Faye Taylor (smiling, right hand resting on head, left hand resting on collar, light colored dress, long earrings, dark hair)
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Rachel Eliza Griffiths has selected Courtney Faye Taylor as the winner of the 2021 Cave Canem Poetry Prize for her manuscript Concentrate. Taylor will receive $1,000 and publication by Graywolf Press in fall 2022.

Of Concentrate, Griffiths notes: “Breathtaking, brilliant, and radical –– Concentrate is the mouth that refuses to swallow America’s blackest desires, which have too long centered their wealth on the lives and deaths of Black girls and women. Taylor’s debut is a deftly woven journey that offers us historical and psychic perspectives that are intimate and expansive, as these poems drag us, by syntax and grace, to our nation’s threshing floor, which must be the page and the body. These poems guide readers through graphic meditations on guilt, innocence, innuendo, and how the constructs of form construct, and often destroy, any easy recognition of justice, or Self. Instead, we are seated, with bent heads, between the knees of an unbroken voice that demands to be heard and heeded. Extraordinary in craft, Taylor’s fearless poems appraise the arc of bullets and bodies devoured by America’s great hard dream. Incandescent in her excavation of language, and the perils of its erasure, Taylor breathes through every side of this wound. Concentrate is a tongue that fiercely grips the edges of love and memory before all is ripped loose. How fortunate to discover Taylor’s imagination, and her uncompromising heart, in such a world.”

Courtney Faye Taylor is a writer and visual artist from the Midwest. She is the winner of the 92Y Discovery / Boston Review Poetry Prize and an Academy of American Poets Prize. Her work has been anthologized in Best New Poets 2020 and published in The Nation, Poetry, Ploughshares, Gulf Coast, The New Republic, Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. Taylor is a graduate of Agnes Scott College and the University of Michigan Helen Zell Writers’ Program where she received the Hopwood Prize in Poetry. She is the recipient of fellowships and residencies from the Charlotte Street Foundation and the Mae Fellowship.

This year’s runner up is Justin Danzy for his manuscript Run in such a way. Griffiths says: “Run in such a way is a vision of snare, thorn, tongue, and the endless rhythms through which language skims its wings across the darkened faces of history, memory, and body. Danzy’s charged voice, which is lyrical and bold in its clarity, flays truth alive and offers us a singing blaze. These startling poems are immediate and revelatory, resurrecting both the past and the future into our Now.”

Justin Danzy is from Southfield, Michigan. He lives in St. Louis, Missouri. A full list of semifinalists can be found here.

Established in 1999 with Rita Dove’s selection of Natasha Trethewey’s Domestic Work, the Cave Canem Poetry Prize is a first-book award dedicated to launching the publishing career of a Black poet. The 2022 Cave Canem Poetry Prize will open for submissions in January 2022.