The winner of the 2018 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets is Tjawangwa (TJ) Dema for her collection, The Careless Seamstress. Dema will receive a $1000 cash award and publication of her manuscript as part of the African Poetry Book Series by the University of Nebraska Press, to be released in the spring of 2019.

The judging panel for the Sillerman Prize is made up of the African Poetry Book Fund’s Editorial Board, including Chris Abani, Gabeba Baderoon, Bernardine Evaristo, Aracelis Girmay, John Keene, Matthew Shenoda, and Phillippa Yaa de Villiers, with Kwame Dawes, who also serves as Director of the African Poetry Book Fund and Prairie Schooner Editor-in-Chief. The Sillerman Prize is sponsored by philanthropists Laura and Robert FX Sillerman, whose annual bequest has continued to fund the work of the African Poetry Book Fund in its publishing and promotion of African poetry.

Tjawangwa (TJ) Dema is a poet, arts administrator, and teaching artist. She earned an MA in creative writing from Lancaster University. Her chapbook, Mandible, was published as part of Seven New Generation African Poets (Slapering Hol Press, 2014).

Poet Tjwangwa (TJ) Dema faces the camera with a serious expression, standing in front of a black background

Tjwangwa (TJ) Dema

Her work has appeared in the Cordite Poetry Review, Elsewhere Lit, the New Orleans Review, and Read Women, an anthology. She has received fellowships from the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Danish Arts Council/Foundation, and she was a 2016 Artist-in-Residence in the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities at Northwestern University.

 The judges are also pleased to name as finalists the following poets:

Nawal Nader-French (Ghana/US) for her manuscript “A Hemmed Remnant”
Logan February (Nigeria) for his manuscript “Mannequin in the Nude”
Thabile (Ashley) Makue (South Africa) for her manuscript “‘mamaseko”
Rasaq Malik Gbolahan (Nigeria) for his manuscript “Do Not Bury Me in this Land”
Romeo Oriogun (Nigeria) for his manuscript “My Body Is No Miracle”

Past winners of the award have included Clifton Gachagua’s Madman at Kilifi (2014), Ladan Osman’s The Kitchen-Dweller’s Testimony (2015), Mahtem Shiferraw’s Fuchsia (2016), Safia Elhillo’s The January Children (2017), and Bernard Matambo’s Stray (forthcoming, 2018).

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