Established to promote African poetry written in English or in translation and awarded to a significant book published each year by an African poet.
The Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets will be awarded to an African writer who has not published a book-length poetry collection.
The Brunel International African Poetry Prize will be awarded for a selection of poems by an African poet.

 


The Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets

The African Poetry Book Series is made possible through the generosity of philanthropists Laura and Robert F. X. Sillerman, whose generous contributions have facilitated the establishment of the APBF.  In recognition of their invaluable support of our work, the Sillermans have welcomed the use of their name for the First Book Prize for African Poets.

The Prize

The Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poetry is awarded annually to an African poet who has not yet published a collection of poetry. The winner receives USD $1000 and book publication through the University of Nebraska Press and Amalion Press in Senegal.

The African Poetry Book Fund Editorial Board, including Kwame Dawes, Chris Abani, Matthew Shenoda, John Keene, Gabeba Baderoon, and Bernardine Evaristo, will judge.

A winner will be announced in early January, with notifications sent shortly thereafter.

Eligibility

The Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets will only accept “first book” submissions from African writers who have not published a book-length poetry collection. This includes self-published books if they were sold online, in stores, or at readings. Writers who have edited and published an anthology or a similar collection of other writers’ work remain eligible.

An “African writer” is taken to mean someone who was born in Africa, who is a national or resident of an African country, or whose parents are African.

Only poetry submissions in English can be considered. Work translated from another language to English is accepted, but a percentage of the prize will be awarded to the translator.

No past or present paid employees of the University of Nebraska Press or Amalion Press, or current faculty, students, or employees at the University of Nebraska, are eligible for the prizes.

When to Send

The 2017 Prize is currently open to submissions. Manuscripts are accepted annually between September 15 and December 1st.

Manuscript

No entry fee is required to submit to the contest.

Poetry manuscripts should be at least 50 pages long.

The author’s name should not appear on the manuscript. All entries will be read anonymously. Please include a cover page listing only the title of the manuscript (not the author’s name, address, telephone number, or email address). An acknowledgements page listing the publication history of individual poems may be included, if desired. No application forms are necessary. Eligible writers may submit more than one manuscript.

While we have no specific formatting rules, we suggest sending your manuscript in Times New Roman or Arial, 12 point font, single-spaced. We also prefer one poem per page, meaning a new poem does not begin on the same page on which another ends.

 

The Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets accepts electronic submissions ONLY. Click here or the button below to submit via Submittable.

submit

To ensure confidentiality and fairness, all submissions to the Sillerman Prize are handled by Prairie Schooner Book Prize Coordinator David Henson. Please direct questions to his attention at psbookprize@unl.edu.

2017 Winner

Stray by Bernard Matambo (Zimbabwe)

University of Nebraska Press, forthcoming 2018.

The African Poetry Book Fund and Prairie Schooner are pleased to announce that Bernard Matambo’s collection, Stray, is the winner of the 2017 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets.  Matambo will receive a $1000 cash award and publication of his book with the University of Nebraska Press and Amalion Press in Senegal. (Details)


2016 Winner

The January Children by Safia Elhillo (Sudan)

The January Children by Safia Elhillo

University of Nebraska Press, 2017. 978-0803295988

Safia Elhillo’s collection The January Children was the winner of the 2016 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets. The January Children depicts displacement and longing while also questioning accepted truths about geography, history, nationhood, and home. The poems mythologize family histories until they break open, using them to explore aspects of Sudan’s history of colonial occupation, dictatorship, and diaspora. Several of the poems speak to the late Egyptian singer Abdelhalim Hafez, who addressed many of his songs to the asmarani—an Arabic term of endearment for a brown-skinned or dark-skinned person. Elhillo explores Arabness and Africanness and the tensions generated by a hyphenated identity in those two worlds. No longer content to accept manmade borders, Elhillo navigates a new and reimagined world. Maintaining a sense of wonder in multiple landscapes and mindscapes of perpetually shifting values, she leads the reader through a postcolonial narrative that is equally terrifying and tender, melancholy and defiant. (Details)


2015 Winner

Fuschia by Mahtem Shiferraw (Ethiopia/Eritrea/United States)

Fuchsia by Mahtem Shifferaw

University of Nebraska Press, 2016. 978-0803285569

Mahtem Shiferraw’s collection Fuschia was the winner of the 2015 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets. Fuchsia examines conceptions of the displaced, disassembled, and nomadic self. Embedded in her poems are colors, elements, and sensations that evoke painful memories related to deep-seated remnants of trauma, war, and diaspora. Yet rooted in these losses and dangers also lie opportunities for mending and reflecting, evoking a distinct sense of hope. Elegant and traditional, the poems in Fuchsia examine what it means to both recall the past and continue onward with a richer understanding. (Details)


2014 Winner

The Kitchen Dweller’s Testimony by Ladan Osman (Somalia/ United States)

University of Nebraska Press, 2015. 978-0803266865

Ladan Osman’s collection The Kitchen-Dweller’s Testimony was the winner of the 2014 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets. The Kitchen-Dweller’s Testimony asks: Whose testimony is valid? Whose testimony is worth recording? Osman’s speakers, who are almost always women, assert and reassert in an attempt to establish authority, often through persistent questioning. Specters of race, displacement, and colonialism are often present in her work, providing momentum for speakers to reach beyond their primary, apparent dimensions and better communicate. The Kitchen-Dweller’s Testimony is about love and longing, divorce, distilled desire, and all the ways we injure ourselves and one another. (Details)


2013 Winner

Madman at Kilifi by Clifton Gachagua (Kenya)

Madman at Kilifi by Clifton Gachagua

University of Nebraska Press, 2014. 978-0803249622

Clifton Gachagua’s collection Madman at Kilifi was the winner of the inaugural Sillerman First Book Prize in 2013. Madman at Kilifi, winner of the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets, concerns itself with the immediacy of cultures in flux, cybercommunication and the language of consumerism, polyglot politics and intrigue, sexual ambivalence and studied whimsy, and the mind of a sensitive, intelligent, and curious poet who stands in the midst of it all. Gachagua’s is a world fully grounded in the postmodern Kenyan cultural cauldron, a world in which people speak with “satellite mouths,” with bodies that are “singing machines,” and in which the most we can do is “collide against each other.” Here light is graceful, and we glow like undiscovered galaxies and shifting matter. And here as well, we find new expression in a poetry that moves as we do. (Details)


Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry

The Glenna Luschei Prize will reopen on May 1, 2018, for books published in 2017.

The Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry is named for poet, publisher, editor, businesswoman, and philanthropist, Glenna Luschei, who has also endowed in perpetuity the literary quarterly Prairie Schooner. Her generous contribution established this annual award.  In recognition of their invaluable support of our work, Glenna Luschei has welcomed the use of her name for the Prize for African Poetry.

 

The Prize

The Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry is awarded annually to a book published in the previous calendar year by an African poet. They author receives an award of USD $1,000. This Pan African Poetry Prize, established to promote African poetry written in English or in translation and to recognize a significant book published each year by an African poet, is the only one of its kind in the world.

Each year, a significant African writer judges the contest. Open annually from May to October to submissions from authors and publishers, a winner will be announced in early December.

Eligibility

The Luschei Prize for African Poetry is open to any book of original poetry, in English, published during the previous calendar year in a standard edition of a full-length collection of poetry written by any African writer. Books must be submitted in the year after their publication, which means that books published in 2017 may be submitted for consideration between May 1 and October 1, 2018.

An “African writer” is taken to mean someone who was born in Africa, who is a national or resident of an African country, or whose parents are African.

A standard edition is 48 pages or more in length.

Only poetry submissions in English can be considered, but we welcome published works of translation for consideration.

Self-published books are ineligible.

Books published by the APBF and its African Poetry Series are ineligible.

There is no entry fee but an entry form is required for each title submitted. The winner will be announced in December.

When to Send

Manuscripts are accepted annually between May 1st and October 1st.

Manuscript

No entry fee is required to submit to this contest, but an entry form is required for each title submitted.

pdfDownload the Entry Form.

Publishers may submit as many eligible titles as they wish. The publisher should send four copies of each book to the APBF, postmarked between May 1 and October 1, 2016.

Uncorrected galleys (including PDF galleys) of books will be considered as long as the publication date falls within the period of eligibility.

Please send four copies of each entry to the following address, postmarked between May 1 and October 1, 2017:

The Glenna Luschei Poetry Prize
The African Poetry Book Fund
Prairie Schooner
110 Andrews Hall
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Lincoln, NE 68588-0334

Books will not be returned but may be donated to the African Poetry Libraries Initiative.

Please send any questions to africanpoetrybf@unl.edu.

 


2016 Winner

Waslap by Rethabile Masilo (Lesotho)

Onslaught Press, 2015. 978-0992723859

Rethabile Masilo is a Mosotho poet born in 1961. He left Lesotho with his parents and siblings to go into exile in 1980, moving through the Republic of South Africa, Kenya, and the United States, before settling in France in 1987. The poems in his second collection speak of this journey. They are intimate, playful and ironic; mysterious, urban, heartbreaking, and painful. Infused with the warmth of the language of family and full of references to nature and the grandeur of remembered landscapes, the poems are both universal and personal. It is poetry that reflects the predicament of those displaced; the victims of prejudice, war and terror. Masilo describes how fettered by suspicion the daily life of an exile can be. At the same time, “by a conquest of will”, he is now the keeper of his dead father’s dreams, which in itself entitles him to a kind of freedom. In the end, it is such freedoms; such home-truths; that form the solid bedrock on which this powerful and moving collection stands and where the poet stakes his ground: where “the mountains rise above my predicament.”


2015 Winner

Book of Rooms by Kobus Moolman (South Africa)

Book of Rooms

Deep South, 2014. 978-0987028242

A Book of Rooms, Kobus Moolman’s new collection of poetry, deepens the explorations of his recent books Light and After and Left Over. While their Beckett-like sparseness and doggedness is still there, A Book of Roomsmoves into a realist-biographical narrative form. Arranged in physically dense scenes described as ‘rooms’, it inhabits the childhood and young adulthood of a man with a serious physical disability growing up in a grim family environment in the final years of the white side of apartheid. The reader is compelled immediately into the character’s bleak and constant meetings with pain and failure. Yet inside this present-tense current can be felt a powerful will to live, sharp flashes of humor – and an even more powerful drive to know the truth.


 2014 Winner

through the window of a sandcastle by amu nnadi (Nigeria)

PageLines- ScreenShot2015-07-22at4.57.53PM.pngParresia Press, 2013. 978-9783157446

“We come face to face with a truly original voice. [Nnadi] creates new metaphors, new spaces of being, and new cartographies of the African soul. There are traces here of Christopher Okigbo’s striking vision and voice, of Eliot’s sense of epic, of Walcott’s ability to turn quotidian diction into a song of light, and yet a melancholy, a brilliance, a dance that is all original, all amu nnadi.” — Chris Abani, Nigerian poet and novelist, PEN Award and Guggenheim winner