Heavenly Smells: Joelle Taylor

This is an essay commissioned by Book Works in response to Diana Georgiou’s novel, Other Reflexes. We asked five writers and artists to each respond to one of the book’s chapters, each themed around a particular sense, with a text-based work of some kind. Here, Joelle Taylor responds to the prompt of ‘Heavenly Smells’ with a scent sonnet.

Scent Sonnet 1

the scent unclipped from the skin
becomes its own body –
becomes your first teacher at primary school
which becomes years of bent back thinking
which becomes a small woman
grabbing a certificate from a hand
which flutters in yours
which becomes your first love
which becomes one body passing through another
which becomes the shape of a kiss
pursed lips becoming birds in flight
which becomes the song of leaving

the scent unclipped from the skin
imprints the air with her, with longing

Joelle Taylor is the author of 4 collections of poetry. Her most recent collection C+NTO & Othered Poems won the 2021 T.S Eliot Prize, and the 2022 Polari Book Prize for LGBT authors. C+NTO is currently being adapted for theatre with a view to touring. She is a co- curator and host of Out-Spoken Live at the Southbank Centre, and tours her work nationally and internationally in a diverse range of venues, from Australia to Brazil. She is also a Poetry Fellow of University of East Anglia and the curator of the Koestler Awards 2023. She has judged several poetry and literary prizes including Jerwood Fellowship, the Forward Prize, and the Ondaatje Prize. Her novel of interconnecting stories The Night Alphabet will be published by Riverrun in Spring of 2024. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and the 2022 Saboteur Spoken Word Artist of the Year. Her most recent acting role was in Blue by Derek Jarman, which was directed by Neil Bartlett and featured Russell Tovey, Jay Bernard, and Travis Alabanza. Blue sold out its run across the UK and more dates are expected for the future.

Other Reflexes is out now – order it here.

Heavenly Smells: Joelle Taylor; ; 2024; | Commissions: IntersticesOther Responses Artist: Georgiou, Diana; Contributor: Taylor, Joelle; Editors: Homersham, Lizzie; Penney, Bridget; Shlaim, Tamar; | Publisher: Book Works: