Byas Wins Maya Angelou Book Award for Her Debut Poetry Collection, 'I Done Clicked My Heels Three Times'

Friday, October 6, 2023

Taylor Byas next to color blocks

Taylor Byas is the winner of the third annual Maya Angelou Book Award for her debut poetry collection I Done Clicked My Heels Three Times.    

She was named Thursday evening, October 5, during the Writers for Readers literary event co-sponsored by the Kansas City Public Library and the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s MFA Program in Creative Writing.  

“Winning this book award that honors one of my most important literary ancestors is confirmation that I'm on the right path and doing the important work,” Byas says. “This is further proof that our lives and stories on the margins are crucial to literature and our understanding of one another, and I'm so grateful to the Maya Angelou Book Award for seeing me and this book.”  

I Done Clicked My Heels Three Times explores a Black woman’s journey out of the South Side of Chicago and into adulthood, inspired by the film The Wiz. Byas is a Chicago native currently living in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she is an assistant features editor for The Rumpus and acquisitions poetry editor for Variant Literature.  

The Maya Angelou Book Award guest judge, poet Randall Mann, selected Byas from five finalists who emerged from a field of more than 100 submissions. Joining her as finalists were Jessica Q. Stark for Buffalo Girl; Sally Wen Mao for The Kingdom of Surfaces; Terrance Hayes for So to Speak; and Franny Choi for The World Keeps Ending, and the World Goes On.   

The award includes a $10,000 stipend, and Byas will conduct a book tour of the six Missouri universities that participate in its administration.  

Named for acclaimed, Missouri-born memoirist, poet, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou, the prize celebrates contemporary writers whose work demonstrates their commitment to social justice. It alternates annually between poetry and fiction, going this year to the author of a work of poetry.  

The Maya Angelou Book Award was established in 2020 by the Kansas City Public Library, UMKC, the University of Missouri-Columbia, Missouri State University, and Northwest Missouri State, Truman State, and Southeast Missouri State universities.