Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poetry

The 2020 Sillerman Prize is now open through December 1, 2020! For more information and to submit, click here.

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, Mr. and Mrs. Sillerman have welcomed the use of their name for the First Book Prize for African Poets.


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.

2016 Winner. Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets


Asmarani (2016)

Safia Elhillo

, “The poems demonstrate a riveting sense of the power of language.  They are alert to history and formally compelling as well.” She continues, “There is an alluring sense of wholeness to the collection.  The themes flow convincingly from poem to poem, and the voice is so confident that I trust the speaker to lead me through sensitive and risky territory. Gabeba Baderoon, Editorial Board Member.
2015 Winner.  Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets

Fuchsia (2015)

Mahtem Shiferraw

“It is exciting to see a poet working intensely at precision of language to capture the most difficult things for language to capture…. This is a study of poetic obsession, and what we get is the indisputable evidence that beyond any desire to say something, to communicate some of the complexity of the world, some polemical or political idea, there is in Shiferraw a desire to challenge her skills as a poet to capture, through the limitations of language, the infinite possibilities of our universe.” —Kwame Dawes, APBF Series Editor, Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner Preorder Fuchsia.
2014 Winner. Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets

2014 Winner. Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets

The Kitchen Dweller’s Testimony (2014)

Ladan Osman

“It occurs to me that Ladan Osman is one of the most inquisitive poets I have ever read. And inquisitive is perhaps too weak a word, so let me use questioning. Her work is questioning. She asks about everything; she wants to know about everything. The rooms of these poems are crowded with all manner of things and people she wants to ask about. She picks up an image from one side of a room and asks us about it. Then she snatches another from the other side and asks about that. She is almost out of breath from so much asking. Why do you do that? Why do you do that to me?”—Ted Kooser, former US Poet Laureate Order The Kitchen Dweller's Testimony.
2013 Winner. Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets

2013 Winner. Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets

Madman at Kilifi (2013)

Clifton Gachagua

“There is in Clifton’s musicality the fleetness of strings, a mark of East Africa, distinct from the drumbeat throb of the West African line. There is also the presence of the Indian Ocean to the other side. The press of a land that is open savanna that seems to sprawl into the sea allows Clifton to make musical and narrative moves like this…from ‘In Remembrance of Elsa Okello’: “The evolution of nova, the gradual shift into an idea we call destiny.” That is the kind of line you would hear from a poet like Awonoor or, dare I say, even Walcott.”—Chris Abani, Nigerian poet and novelist, PEN Award and Guggenheim winner Order Madman at Kilifi.