The African Poetry Digital Portal (Portal) is the newest project of the African Poetry Book Fund. The Portal is an ongoing project and will be a gateway, providing access to and details of digital and print book manuscripts, newspapers and periodicals, newsletters, audio recordings, video recordings, websites, and related collections of African poetry written by Africans from antiquity to the present. It will also feature curated digital projects on various aspects of African poetry.
The Portal seeks to create a critical context for the reception and understanding of African poetry in ways that will ensure that it has a place in the academy and secures a place in the considerations of global poetry. By documenting the work of African poets, the Portal provides equitable digital access to creative and intellectual artifacts, materials, and research on the subject of African Poetry, housed in academic and cultural institutions in Africa and its Diaspora, and engenders an informed, culturally diverse, civically engaged, and responsible society.
The philosophical basis of this entire project is predicated on the understanding that there is a rich store of creative and intellectual resources in Africa and its Diaspora related to African poetry and poetics that can be transformative and influential in the world. This project is also predicated on the belief that while such resources exist, they have not been effectively organized around African poetry and poetics in a manner that allows them to galvanize research to influence intellectual engagement with poetics around the world, and to add significantly to our understanding of poetics in Africa and globally. The purpose of the project is to engage and connect scholars, thinkers, artists, and communities who will benefit from a free and thoughtful exchange of ideas and study around African poetry.
Established through a preliminary grant of $150,000 from the Ford Foundation in 2017, the Portal entered its next major phase with the support of a $750,000 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant in 2021.
These first two sites of the Portal consist of the first sections of the Index for Contemporary African Poets and the African Poets and Poetry in the News. African Poetry and Poetics in the News explores how depictions of African poetry in the news media have influenced and shaped perceptions of what African poetry is in the 21st century. It facilitates and supports current research relating to Poetry and Revolution, Race and Poetry, and Poetry and Migration as it relates to the African continent and cultures. The Index of Contemporary African Poets is an enhanced index of published contemporary African poets. The Index represents a comprehensive listing of contemporary African poets who have published full-length books or chapbooks in the last two decades, as well as the names and details of poets who are yet to publish a collection but who have had their work appear in journals and on web spaces.
The second phase of the Portal will see the expansion of these two existing sections as well as the establishment of the African Poetry Collections Hub. Once completed, the Hub will include digital and print manuscripts, newspapers and periodicals, newsletters, audio recordings, video recordings, websites, and related collections of African poetry written by Africans from antiquity to the present.
The Portal is being developed in partnership with the University of Nebraska Lincoln’s English Department and Prairie Schooner, both based, as the APBF, in the College of Arts and Sciences, and with the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities (CDRH) and the University Libraries.
Institutions collaborating with the APBF on this work are the University of Cape Town, Northwestern University, The University of Oxford, the University of Lomé, the University of Ghana, the University of Cambridge, University of Michigan, and the Library of Congress.