Brunel International African Poetry Prize 2018 shortlist announced

Gben­ga Adeo­ba, Michelle Angwenyi and There­sa Lola are among eight poets short­list­ed for the 2018 Brunel Inter­na­tion­al African Poet­ry Prize.

The African Poet­ry Prize is now in its sixth year, and offers a £3,000 prize aimed at the devel­op­ment, cel­e­bra­tion and pro­mo­tion of poet­ry from Africa.

The prize is open to African poets world­wide who have not yet pub­lished a full poet­ry col­lec­tion. Each poet must sub­mit 10 poems in order to be eligible.

Brunel Inter­na­tion­al African Poet­ry Prize 2018 shortlist

  • Gben­ga Adeo­ba (Nige­ria)
  • Hiwot Adilow (Ethiopia)
  • Michelle Angwenyi (Kenya)
  • Dalia Elhas­san (Sudan)
  • Nour Kamel (Egypt)
  • There­sa Lola (Nige­ria)
  • Mom­taza Mehri (Soma­lia)
  • Cheswayo Mphan­za (Zam­bia)

Speak­ing about this year’s short­list, award-win­ning author and pro­fes­sor Bernar­dine Evaris­to said: “This year there were just over 1,000 entries, dou­ble the amount we received when the Prize began in 2012. The qual­i­ty of poet­ry sub­mit­ted to the Prize has increased expo­nen­tial­ly each year as the field of pub­lished African poets widens and they then become role mod­els for even new­er poets com­ing up.

“For exam­ple, when the Prize began there were a lot of Chris­t­ian poems, and poems influ­enced by black poets of the 60s and 70s – a sign that aspir­ing poets on the con­ti­nent were not being exposed to enough con­tem­po­rary sec­u­lar African poetry.

“Now we have an incred­i­ble assort­ment of 21st-cen­tu­ry poets explor­ing a wide range of themes and styles, such as last year’s win­ner, Romeo Ori­o­gun, who was our first open­ly gay win­ner. We are also attract­ing more North African entries and, for the sec­ond year, a North African poet is shortlisted.”

Pre­vi­ous win­ners of the prize include Warsan Shire of Soma­lia (2013), Liy­ou Lib­sekal of Ethiopia (2014), and Nick Mako­ha Ugan­da (2015).

All the pre­vi­ous win­ners, and most of the short­list­ed poets, of the past five years have had poet­ry pam­phlets pub­lished with APBF in their cel­e­brat­ed New Gen­er­a­tion African Poets series.

For the moment, the major­i­ty of poets short­list­ed live out­side of Africa. Evaris­to puts this down to access to edu­ca­tion and the num­ber of cre­ative writ­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties available.

“We always aim to select a con­ti­nen­tal spread of tal­ent­ed poets, although we have more sub­mis­sions from Nige­ria than any oth­er coun­try,” she said. “And while we are com­mit­ted to find­ing poets who still live in Africa, the sad truth is that many of our short­list­ed poets are those who have had access to a cre­ative writ­ing edu­ca­tion and a lit­er­a­ture devel­op­ment cul­ture out­side of the con­ti­nent, espe­cial­ly in the US and UK, where cre­ative writ­ing cours­es pro­lif­er­ate, from infor­mal work­shop groups through to post­grad­u­ate degrees. There needs to be more cre­ative writ­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for the aspir­ing writ­ers who live in Africa.”

Evaris­to added: “This is an incred­i­bly excit­ing time in the devel­op­ment of African poet­ry. We expect that many of the poets engaged in our impact­ful poet­ry ini­tia­tives will become the lead­ing African poets of the future. Many of them are still very young, in their twen­ties, and we expect great things from them, but also those from poets who are old­er but still rel­a­tive­ly new to pub­lish­ing poet­ry. African poet­ry is now stak­ing its claim on the glob­al lit­er­ary land­scape. We are wit­ness­ing a qui­et revolution.”

The Prize is spon­sored by Brunel Uni­ver­si­ty Lon­don and the African Poet­ry Book Fund.

Read more about all the of the short­list­ed artists on the African Poet­ry Prize website.

Image: cour­tesy of Brunel Inter­na­tion­al African Poet­ry Prize