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