Tiphanie Yanique

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WINNER OF THE FELIX DENNIS PRIZE FOR BEST FIRST COLLECTION

Tiphanie Yanique (b. 1978, Virgin Islands) has long considered herself a writer, indeed, when asked in school for three words to describe herself, she ‘would say, “Caribbean, girl, writer.” Maybe not always in that order.’ Further, she notes how children ‘speak in metaphor, that they hunt down language as poets do, that they use their vocabulary limitations the way poets might use the limitations of poetic form – to find a way to say something anew.’

Wife, her debut collection, was begun in 2000, but became increasingly focused: the more recently written poems ‘are more clearly about the complexities of heterosexual marriage.’ It has already won the 2016 Bocas Poetry Prize.

Yanique, who was taught by Claudia Rankine, winner of the 2015 Forward Prize, says of teachers that they ‘can destroy you or they can build you. Sometimes they do one in service of the other.’

Asked what is next for her as a poet, Yanique replies: ‘I have a lingering feeling that there is more I might be able to discover about the ways in which being a woman inside of a family and being an island inside of a nation are connected.’