Winner of the 2023 Michael Marks Poetry Award
Winner of the Mslexia Women's Poetry Pamphlet Competition 2022
Courtney Conrad’s powerful work interrogates the tensions within Caribbean migration, gender-based violence and national politics. Migrating from Kingston as a teenager, she is unflinching in her attempts to capture the vibrancy and violence of her experiences in both the UK and Jamaica. Her poetry draws together subversive diasporic imagery, national political commentary and shatteringly personal narrative in its exacting response to the political corruption and violence she witnessed as a young girl in Jamaica in the wake of its colonial subjugation under the British Empire. The themes of her work stretch across state- and gender-based violence, religion, raw bodily introspection and lush cultural memorabilia that reimagines the warmth and blood of both her homes.
I Am Evidence was the winner of the 2022 Mslexia Women’s Poetry Pamphlet Competition judged by Imtiaz Dharker, and includes some work which won her an Eric Gregory Award in 2022. This debut pamphlet went on to win the 2023 Michael Marks Poetry Award.
'One pamphlet stood out for us for its sheer nerve and its virtuosic use of the pamphlet form: Courtney Conrad's I Am Evidence. These are startling poems of personal, social and political resonance. It has the reach and impact of a long novel, and each poem explodes on the page.' - Fiona Benson, Co-Judge, Michael Marks Poetry Award 2023
'The poems in this pamphlet give fierce witness to the precarity and turmoil of a violent and impoverished Jamaica. The poems are linguistically surefooted, and enriched by a rich, dynamic Jamaican patois; they are also technically incredibly accomplished. Through evocations, classifieds, stories, recipes and witness, we are immersed in the convulsions and mercies of a dangerously unequal society. While these poems bear witness to the most brutal violence, the collection is not without joy, because love is always present at the table. Although the pamphlet is a short form, I Am Evidence has the reach, ambition, structural integrity and humanity of a long novel. This pamphlet is obeah; wonderful, dangerous magic.' – Judges, Michael Marks Poetry Award 2023
‘For me the voice is so powerful and individual, it leaps off the page … The poems in this pamphlet speak from a visceral place in the face of political and personal violence. But what Conrad does is make the language itself the means of defiance. This is English remade, remashed. It hacks out a route to survival through its agility and its music and is unstoppable. So, I expect, is this poet.’ – Imtiaz Dharker, judge of the Mslexia Poetry Pamphlet Competition 2022 on the winning pamphlet I Am Evidence
‘The title of Courtney Conrad’s I Am Evidence immediately makes clear the documentary nature of its contents. Its exploration of the dual “vibrancy and violence” of Caribbean diasporic experiences, both in Jamaica and in the UK, is admirably confident; Conrad’s language embodies multiple interlocking voices with a hypermobile fluidity … The forms Conrad employs are expansive and original: one poem takes the shape of a series of “Classifieds”, another a recipe for “Snapper”, which ends by leaving “[m]y reality inedible”.’ – Imogen Cassels, The Times Literary Supplement
‘Courtney Conrad is one of the most promising voices to emerge in the British literary world. A voice of afﬁrmation, testimony, survival and revival. The Jamaican spirit of remixing and mashing up English into new and deeper coherences. These poems are evidence of a truth-telling lyrical arrival.’ – Raymond Antrobus
‘Courtney Conrad is an important voice to watch. Her book I Am Evidence feels like a new shot in the Caribbean Artist Movement. Throughout the book her identity and culture resonate in the fresh use of national language which enables a nuanced unspooling of hidden Caribbean narratives exploring the micro of Jamaica’s underclass as it alludes to the macro of Jamaican politics.’ – Roger Robinson
‘These are poems of archive, place and survival which are as bold as they are earnest and insistent on telling the stories of lives often relegated to the domain of footnote, headline and or stereotype.[…] I Am Evidence is a remarkable debut on its own terms that will stick with readers long after the last page.’ – Tolu Agbelusi.
‘Conrad is forging her own distinctive Jamaican poetic seeped in a literary orality, which enables the witness bearing of: the persevered, the forsaken, the rock bottom, the hold on better must come, all speaking to a fragile existence. Yet these are not downtrodden but celebrated as resilient. Conrad continues the tradition of Jamaican poets like Louise Bennett, Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze and Olive Senior who unapologetically empowered the working-class voice.’ – Malika Booker.
‘I Am Evidence employs the poetics of witness to lay bare injustice, poverty and violence with an ease of expression and imagery that is ﬁerce and agile. And yet, there is humour, and hope, and joy, in the language, in the celebration of patois that threads the poems.’ –Dr Keith Jarrett
‘Courtney Conrad is one of the most dynamic and exciting poets I’ve read in a long, long time. With its striking title alone, Courtney Conrad’s debut pamphlet makes a bold, declarative statement. […] her images blissfully efficient and cinematic. Commanding, witty, bracingly political yet never didactic, I Am Evidence engages the voice, the body and the intellect in equal measure.’ – Vanessa Kisuule.
‘Courtney Conrad is an exceptional writer. Her poems are utterly alive and completely immersive; they draw you in and leave you breathless. Each poem is a vivid and expertly drawn world which manages to confront and contain so much. These poems are full of struggle but they simmer with vibrance, with beauty, with truth, with care and with an addictive and distinctive voice.’ – Cecilia Knapp.
‘Courtney Conrad, what an outstanding, original voice! These poems bear (unbearable) testimony and witness. This is work so rooted and yet transportive, utterly transformative.’ – Rachel Long.
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