Archive for February, 2014

Warsan Shire - Pic cred: The Guardian UK

Warsan Shire – Pic cred: The Guardian UK

Undoubtedly among the best, published poets of the young African generation, Warsan Shire (@warsan_shire) has lent her voice to a campaign by The Guardian to push for education on Female Genital Mutilation in UK schools. The campaign is championed by 17-year old Fahma Mohamed and supported by anti-FGM campaigners. I’m sharing the text and a link to the video here because I believe that FGM must be stopped everywhere it occurs and as an ardent proponent of African poetry, these are the ways the campaign ring with me: through the art.

Warsan Shire won the inaugral Brunel Poetry Prize last year and one of her winning poems, Things We Had Lost in the Summer, is drawn from her experience of growing up in a community of people who have undergone the procedure. This latest poem, Girls, recorded for The Guardian, touches FGM in ways that you may probably never had heard: makes it soft but ragingly powerful and real, brings it to a home setting, puts it on a TV reality show, puts it beside you on your bed, talks to your mother, alludes to the devil’s tongue! I have been a great admirer of Warsan’s work and this adds to the increasing body of powerful poetry she’s challenging the world with. All the world needs to act to ensure FGM doesn’t continue into another generation. The last woman to have suffered it should be the last. We are all responsible and accountable. Copyright for the text belongs to Warsan, credit to Spread The Word for the text. Watch the video performance by Warsan Shire here on the Guardian site.

Girls

1

Sometimes it’s tucked into itself, sewn up like the lips of a prisoner.

After the procedure, the girls learn how to walk again, mermaids with new legs, soft knees buckling under their new stainless, sinless bodies.

2

Daughter is synonymous with traitor, the father says. If your mother survived it, you can survive it, the father says. Cut, cut, cut.

3

On a reality TV show about beauty, one girl exposes another girls’ secret. They huddle around her asking questions, touching her arm in liberal concern for her pleasure. Can you even feel anything down there? The camera zooms into a Georgia O’Keefe painting in the background.

4

But mother did you even truly survive it? The carving, the cutting, the warm blade against the inner thigh. Scalping. Deforestation. Leveling the ground. Silencing the devils tongue between your legs, maybe you did? I’m asking you sincerely mother, did you truly survive it?

5

Two girls lay in bed beside one another holding mirrors under the mouths of their skirts, comparing wounds.

I am one girl and you are the other.

Ladan Osman

Ladan Osman

Just in: Somali Poet Ladan Osman has won this year’s Sillerman First Book Prize for African poetry with her collection, The Kitchen Dweller’s Testimony. This follows from last year’s inaugural win by Kenyan Clifton Gachagua for his Madman at Kilifi.

Readers of this blog will not be strangers to my love for Somali literature and this win by another Somali following Warsan Shire’s Brunel African poetry prize win last year, goes to remove all doubt about the art of that country in the east. I’m elated there is a new Somali poet whose works I will be looking forward to and reading through the year. Read my post Celebrating Somalia (yes, Celebrating!) and the poem I Think About you, Mogadishu.

Press release: Courtesy African Poetry Book Fund and BooksLive

Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets, The African Poetry Book Fund and Prairie Schooner are pleased to announce that Ladan Osman’s collection, The Kitchen Dweller’s Testimony, is the winner of the 2014 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets. Osman will receive a $1000 cash award and publication of her book with the University of Nebraska Press and Amalion Press in Senegal.

“I deeply appreciate this prize,” Osman said after learning of the board’s decision. “I have so badly just wanted a chance to work, to be apparent to people in life and in poems. A bunch of things happened in the years spent writing this book: I’m excited to share what came out of those sometimes rough waters, and look forward to connecting to new readers and new communities.”

The African Poetry Book Fund publishes four new titles each year, including the winner of the Sillerman prize and one new volume by a major African poet.

African Poetry Book Fund Series Editor and Prairie Schooner Editor-in-Chief Kwame Dawes praised The Kitchen Dweller’s Testimony, saying that “only the genius of sincerity of voice and imagination can allow a poet to contain in a single poem both consuming gravitas and delightful whimsy. This is what we get again and again from the splendidly gifted poet Ladan Osman. The editorial team of the African Poetry Book Fund was unanimous in selecting her manuscript as winner of this year’s Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets.”

Osman, whose parents are from the city of Mogadishu in Somalia, has received fellowships from the Luminarts Cultural Foundation, the Fine Arts Work Center, Cave Canem, and the Michener Center for Writers. Her work has appeared in American Life in Poetry, Artful Dodge, Narrative Magazine, Prairie Schooner, RHINO, and Vinyl Poetry. Her chapbook, Ordinary Heaven, will appear in Seven New Generation African Poets: A Chapbook Box Set (Slapering Hol Press, 2014). She teaches in Chicago.

Last year’s winner was Kenyan poet Clifton Gachagua, whose collection, Madman at Kilifi, will be published in February 2014.

The Sillerman First Book Prize is named after philanthropists Laura and Robert F. X. Sillerman, whose contributions have endowed the establishment of the African Poetry Book Fund & Series. The Sillerman prize is awarded to African writers who have not published a book-length poetry collection. An “African writer” is taken to mean someone who was born in Africa, is a citizen or resident of an African country, or whose parents are African.

The Fund and its partners also support seminars, workshops, and other publishing opportunities for African poets, as well as the African Poetry Libraries Project. As a partner of the African Poetry Book Fund & Series, Prairie Schooner manages the Sillerman prize. In addition to Series Editor Dawes, the African First Book Fund editorial board is comprised of Chris Abani, Matthew Shenoda, Gabeba Baderoon, John Keene, and Bernardine Evaristo.

Information about the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets is available on the African Poetry Book Fund website, http://africanpoetrybf.unl.edu. You can also find more about Prairie Schooner at http://prairieschooner.unl.edu or on Twitter (@TheSchooner).

New Hearts Grow

Posted: February 18, 2014 in MUSINGS
Tags: ,
Hearts

Hearts

Towards the end of last year, I was on radio here in Ghana reading a couple of poems for a Writers’ program. This morning I woke up feeling like sharing one of those poems with you all, in small sympathy with anybody who didn’t enjoy their Vals day. Hope you enjoy this one.

New Hearts Grow
The morning you left home
You left your heart on the dining table.
I called out after you, tried to run after the taxi that drove you away
To give your heart back.
But I was too late.
So I took it in and opened it up.
And peeped.

If it was mine, I would have left it too.
The walls, plastered over with broken promises
Bleached dreams competing for shine with blisters.
I saw the spot where he ran away from you
Many places, where pieces of heart resented the glue
The lesions, graffiti of infidelity
There was the day they took your innocence
You were still fourteen.
I shut the theater of your insides.

I tried again to return your heart
Praying all the while, it will never reach you
For the chance that you will feel none of this anymore
For the chance that where you were going, you would not have to need it.
For the chance that where you were going, new hearts grow.

Praire Schooner Celebrates African Poetry
Thursday, February 27, 2014
[Time] 7:00pm until 8:15pm in PST
APBF will also host an Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) panel, “New Generation African Women Poets,” on February 28 from 10:30 to 11:45 a.m. in Room 400 of the WA State Convention Center, Level 4, and a celebratory reception on February 27 from 7 to 8:15 p.m. in the Juniper Room at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel. The reception is open to the public. Join Prairie Schooner (@TheSchooner) in the Juniper Room of the Sheraton Seattle Hotel for a reception to celebrate Prairie Schooner growing its international reach through its partnership with the African Poetry Book Fund. This event is a celebration of contemporary African poetry, is free and open to the public, and there will be complimentary food and drink. Please invite friends!

Writers’ Project hosts Nigerian writer Chuma Nwokolo for a Reading
The Writers Project of Ghana (@writersPG) proudly presents a public reading with Nigerian writer, attorney and publisher, Chuma Nwokolo (@chumanwokolo). Chuma is a fantastic writer. Writers’ Project book discussion club last year read his collection Diaries of a Dead African.
This reading offers the opportunity to meet and interact with Chuma Nwokolo. There will be a short discussion session after the reading.
Date: Wednesday, 19th February, 2014.
Time 7:00pm – 8:30pm.
Location: International House, University of Ghana, Legon.
Admission is free.


Kofi Awoonor’s Next Book Publishes Posthumously: The Promise of Hope: New and selected poems

Prior to his death in the Kenya Westgate Mall attack, Kofi Awoonor was due to release this book titled “Promise of Hope: New and Selected Poems.” It is to be the lead book of the new African Poetry Book Series to appear this year. Foreworded by Kwame Dawes (@kwamedawes) and set to be published in March by University of Nebraska Press, the book was part of reasons Awoonor was at the Storymoja Hay Festival in Kenya in order to push some advance publicity for the book. Look out for the release of this last anthology we will read from Awoonor, summing up fifty years of his activist, political and traditional life as a poet. Introduction and editing by Kofi Anyidoho.

Commonwealth Writers’ Non-fiction Workshop, Uganda 9-13 June 2014
Commonwealth Writers invites East African writers aged 18 and over to apply for the 10 places in the workshop. Writers from Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, living and working in East Africa, are eligible to apply. There will be two places allocated per country. This is a residential workshop. All travel (from elsewhere in East Africa), accommodation and meals will be provided for successful applicants. There is no fee to attend the workshop. To be considered, please apply to writers@commonwealth.int by Friday 28 February. Led by the Chair of the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize and former deputy editor of Granta, Ellah Allfrey (@epwa66), the workshop will explore different ways to approach creative non-fiction. Detailed application requirements on their site here.

Creative Writing Masterclass with Yewande Omotoso in Accra on March 8th.

From Kinna Reads: Yewande Omotoso will teach a creative writing master class in Accra, on Saturday March 8th 2014.  Ama Ata Aidoo will also be there as a resource person and special guest.The master class is organized by the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) and Mbaasem Foundation. The class is free. Women writers interested in attending the class should send a short bio and a sample story or article to info@mbaasem.net by Friday February 21st.  Successful applicants will be notified by February 28th. The master class will focus on the craft of writing and will also address writers’ issues with their ongoing works-in-progress. Yewande Omotoso is a writer and her debut novel, Bom Boy has been shortlisted for the 2014 Etisalat Prize.  Find more on Omotoso from AWDF.