Jason Allen-Paisant wins the esteemed T.S. Eliot Prize

Jamaican-British poet Jason Allen-Paisant clinched the 2023 T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry on January 15, with his collection Self-Portrait As Othello, delving into themes of Black masculinity and immigrant identity, globalvoices.com reports. 

Notably, Allen-Paisant used the ceremony platform to shed light on Israel’s war on Gaza, showcasing his dedication to tackling uncomfortable subjects, the outlet adds.

This marks the third time in five years that a Caribbean-rooted poet secured the prestigious prize. The 2019 winner, Roger Robinson, and the 2022 winner, Anthony Joseph, both hailed from the Caribbean.

Celebrated author Monique Roffey hailed the occasion as a “historic night for Caribbean poetry tinged with a beautiful sense of déjà vu.”

The T.S. Eliot Prize’s judging panel praised Allen-Paisant’s collection for its “imaginative capacity, freshness, and technical flair,” noting its theatricality and diverse voices. Allen-Paisant skillfully draws parallels between Shakespeare’s Othello and the contemporary Black immigrant experience, often infusing Jamaican Patois, French, or Italian into his poems.

The GBP 25,000 prize adds to Allen-Paisant’s accolades, following his 2022 OCM Bocas Prize for Poetry. His winning collection was also honored with the 2023 Forward Prize for Best Collection. The poet, previously recognized for “Thinking with Trees,” remains on the literary radar with “Self-Portrait As Othello” making the 2024 Writer’s Prize shortlist.

In a compelling twist, Allen-Paisant’s work explores the intersections of Black masculinity and vulnerability, addressing the overlooked question of how masculinity, especially Black masculinity, navigates vulnerability. The poet’s personal background, growing up in rural Jamaica and facing revelations about his family, further enriches the nuanced exploration within his collection.

Looking ahead, Allen-Paisant, a critical theory and creative writing professor at the University of Manchester, plans to unveil a memoir/nature book hybrid, “Scanning the Bush,” this year. His journey, from rural Jamaica to acclaimed poet, serves as a testament to the transformative power of literature and self-discovery.

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