Ladan Osman and Omotara James

African Poetry Book Fund alumni Omotara James and Ladan Osman have both recently been recognized for their poetic power. James was recently named the recipient of a NYSCA/NYFA poetry fellowship. The program gives artists cash grants of $7,000. “This year is meaningful, as unrestricted artist grants are needed now more than ever,” said NYFA executive director Michael L. Royce. This summer, James’s poem “Tripartite” was featured on the Coffee House Press website. “The poem considers the violence of the now and the flatness of sequestering oneself. It speaks to life in a sick nation,” said Erika Stevens in a brief introduction to the poem. James writes:

It is mid-June and my sisters are
disappearing. My brothers, brown
ivory, dangling by the root. And this country,
only mean to be an offshoot,
can’t carry a tune. We scroll the screens
of news together. Blood on every finger,
tip to root.

Omotara James, from “Tripartite”

Click here to read “Tripartite.” 

Osman, meanwhile, was just named a finalist for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in poetry for her collection Exiles of Eden. The Politics and Prose YouTube channel recently hosted a virtual reading featuring all of the finalists. “I’m actually going to read an older poem that I find to be more soothing, because that’s what I need right now,” Osman said in her introductory remarks. “Maybe that’s the most honest choice I can make.” The poem, entitled “Verse of Hairs,” is a sensuous invoking of both childhood and motherhood. Osman writes:

There must also be a line about finding
curly hairs in pantyhose, the runs the girls made using tights
as blonde hair. Flesh-colored tights. Not their flesh but sufficient
for bombshells frolicking in carpet water: an old mattress
made jet ski, fluorescent lights something like a music video
shoot. We must have a verse about the grease under a mother’s
fingernails, how they become translucent after twisting two sets
of prickly rollers

Ladan Osman, from “Verse of Hairs”

Click here to read the poem in full, and click here to watch a replay of the virtual reading (which concludes with a lively and insightful conversation between all the nominees, moderated by Teri Cross Davis).

Finally, we’d be remiss if we shared this wonderful APBF news without also letting you know that the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets is currently seeking submissions. For more information about the prize and how to submit, click here.

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