The Brunel University African Poetry Prize is a major new poetry prize of £3000 aimed at the development, celebration and promotion of poetry from Africa. The prize is sponsored by Brunel University and partnered by Commonwealth Writers, the Africa Centre UK, and the African Poetry Book Fund USA.British-Nigerian writer, Bernardine Evaristo*, who has initiated the prize, describes her reasons for a new prize exclusively devoted to African poetry:
‘I have judged several prizes in the past few years, including chairing the Caine Prize for African Fiction in 2012, an award that has revitalised the fortunes of fiction from Africa since its inception in 1999. It became clear to me that poetry from the continent could also do with a prize to draw attention to it and to encourage a new generation of poets who might one day become an international presence. I am particularly interested in new voices who are exploring poetry that perhaps draws on the poets’ own cultural aesthetics – doing something original, something different. African poets are rarely published in Britain. I hope this prize will introduce exciting new poets to Britain’s poetry editors.’
Prairie Schooner, one of the leading literary presses in the USA, having published continuously for eighty-five years, has committed to publishing some of the work of the winning poets of the Brunel University African Poetry Prize. Wasafiri, the leading British journal of international writing, will also publish the winner. Similar arrangements will be pursued with other major literary journals in the United Kingdom and the US.
The prize will be for ten poems by an African writer who has not yet had a full-length poetry book published. (Self-published books, chapbooks and pamphlets are exempt.)
The prize is open to poets who were born in Africa, or who are nationals of an African country, or whose parents are African.
Only poetry written in English is eligible. Translated poetry is accepted but a percentage of the prize will be awarded to the translator.
The prize opens for entries on October 26th 2012 and the winner will be announced in April 2013.
There will be a distinguished panel of judges including the poet Kwame Dawes and the academic Mpalive Msiska. There will also be an advisory committee. All to be announced.
In collaboration with the African Poetry Book Fund, the Brunel University African Poetry Prize will develop a series of poetry workshops and courses in Africa in its efforts to provide technical support for poets writing in Africa.
Bernardine Evaristo and the Ghanaian-Jamaican writer, editor and academic, Kwame Dawes*, first worked together in 1995. When they discovered two months ago that they were both launching African poetry prizes, they decided to combine their efforts and resources. Kwame Dawes has just set up the African Poetry Book Fund, established at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The Fund will incorporate the establishment of the new African Poetry Book Series, to be published by the University of Nebraska Press and Amalion Press in Senegal, and the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets. The fund will also incorporate the Brunel University African Poetry Prize. http://tinyurl.com/africanpoetrybookfund
Brunel University is a public research university located in London, winner of the Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2011 for Higher and Further Education. The university has seen phenomenal rises in the recent university ranking guides. In the first Times Higher Education guide to the top 100 universities founded in the last 50 years, Brunel is placed 1st in London, 6th in the UK, and 35th internationally. English and Creative Writing have been ranked in the top quartile of the Guardian University Guide 2013. www.brunel.ac.uk
Commonwealth Writers is a new cultural programme within the Commonwealth Foundation which develops, connects, and inspires writers. By awarding prizes and running on the ground activities, it works in partnership with international literary organisations, the wider cultural industries and civil society to help writers develop their craft in the fifty four countries of the Commonwealth. wwwcommonwealthwriters.org is a forum where members from anywhere in the world can exchange ideas and contribute to debates. www.commonwealthwriters.org
*Bernardine Evaristo is the author of six books of fiction and verse fiction including Lara, The Emperor’s Babe and Blonde Roots. Her latest novel will be published by Penguin UK in Spring 2013. An editor and literary critic for the national newspapers, she teaches creative writing at Brunel University. As an advocate for poets of colour, she initiated the Free Verse report and The Complete Works mentoring schemes to develop poets of colour to publication in the UK – with Spread the Word writing agency. She has judged many leading literary awards and in 2012 she was Chair of both the Commonwealth Short Story Prize and the Caine Prize for African Fiction. Winter 2012 she is Guest Editor of Poetry Review, Britain’s leading poetry journal. She has won several literary awards, is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the Royal Society of Arts and she was made an MBE in 2009. www.bevaristo.com
Kwame Dawes is an award winning poet, novelist, playwright, anthologist, musician and critic and the author of over thirty-five books, including sixteen books of poetry, the most recent being, Wheels, (Peepal Tree Press 2011). He is Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner and Chancellor’s Professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and a faculty member of the Pacific MFA program in Oregon. His many awards include the Forward Poetry Prize, an Emmy for his reporting on HIV AIDS in Jamaica, the Barnes and Nobles Writers for Writers Award, a Pushcart Prize, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He is Associate Poetry Editor of Peepal Tree Press and co-founder and Program Director of Calabash International Literary Festival. His collection Duppy Conqueror, New and Selected Poems will be published by Copper Canyon in 2013.