This is the second year of The Brunel University African Poetry Prize, 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 Commonwealth Writers. Last year the prize was won by Somali poet, Warsan Shire, who has since been awarded an American publisher for her poetry, travelled to six countries as a writer and become the first Young Poet Laureate for London.
The winner will be announced on 12th May 2014. and it’s great we’ll be having a new poet to hoist aroud for a year after Warsan’s brilliant entry last year.
The judges this year are poets, critics and academics: Kwame Dawes, Kadija George, Daljit Nagra, Mpalive Msiska and Chair, Bernardine Evaristo. Out of 579 entries, the judges produced a shortlist of six poets, none of whom has yet published a full length poetry book.
The shortlisted poets are: Viola Allo from Cameroon; Inua Ellams from Nigeria; Amy Lukau from Angola; Nick Makoha from Uganda, Vuyelwa Maluleke from South Africa and Liyou Mesfin Libsekal from Ethiopia.
Bernardine Evaristo, founder of the prize and Chair of judges, has this to say about this year’s competition, ‘The overall quality of entries this year was higher than our first year and the six shortlisted poets demonstrate a lovely range of voices and styles. We’re also really pleased that the poets represent three of Africa’s regions and that yet again that we have an equal gender balance. Last year the prize generated a lot of interest and I feel we are moving towards our goal of putting African poetry on the map.’
The poets are available for interview, and live in Africa, the UK and the USA. They can be contacted via Bernardine Evaristo at Bernardine.Evaristo@brunel.ac.uk
For more information about the prize and the shortlisted poets, please visit our website: http://www.africanpoetryprize.org/
Viola Allo is a Cameroonian-born poet based in the United States. Raised in Cameroon by her Cameroonian father and American mother, she migrated to America at 19. She holds a BA and MA in psychology and anthropology respectively from the universities of California (Davis) and Michigan (Ann Arbor). Her poems and essays have been published in the American River Review. In 2010, she received an Albert and Elaine Borchard Foundation Fellowship to attend the UC Davis Tomales Bay Workshops. Her poem Nigerian Girl With Calabash was published in 2010 in the Library of Congress anthology, Poetry for the Mind’s Joy, and in 2011, it was was selected as “Best in the Nation” by the Community College Humanities Association. Viola is a certified yoga instructor and Ayurvedic wellness counselor. She currently resides in Sacramento, California. She writes on her blog here.
Born in Nigeria in 1984, Inua Ellams is an internationally-touring poet, playwright and performer. He has published two poetry pamphlets, Candy Coated Unicorns and Converse All Stars and Thirteen Fairy Negro Tales. His first play The 14th Tale (a one-man, self-performed show) was awarded a Fringe First at the Edinburgh International Theatre Festival, and his third play Black T-Shirt Collection was staged at the Royal National Theatre (UK). He is currently working on a new play called Barber Shop Chronicles, a poetry a pamphlet called #Afterhours, and his first full collection Of All The Boys of Plateau Private School.
Amy Lukau was born in Tucson, Arizona to Angolan parents. She graduated from Arizona State University with a BS in Molecular Biosciences and Biotechnology & a BA in Religious Studies with certificates in Islamic Studies and Religion & Conflict. She spent two years in the non-profit sector, served on the American Board of Directors for the organization Zion’s Children of Haiti, assisted in the promotion & development of the Young Professionals Amnesty International group in Phoenix, & worked as a policy researcher & analyst for other organizations implementing novel ways to prevent and deal with mass atrocities internationally. She is the Executive Director of Girls Education International, a non-profit organization based in Colorado that supports educational opportunities for underserved females in remote and underdeveloped regions of the world. Amy is currently an MFA candidate in the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado.
Vuyelwa Maluleke is a Joburg-born writer and poet who grew up in a township. She describes herself as a storyteller: “It is when I am most honest. It is also the hardest thing to do for me, to hand my work over so publicly to audiences. But the sharing between the audience and myself generates an immediacy that is like church. There is so much magic there.” Vuyelwa began competitive poetry in 2012 winning the TEWOP Poetry Slam and the DFL Lover and Another 2012 Johannesburg Regionals. She has performed on various stages in Johannesburg. She graduated in 2013 with a BADA at the University of Witwatersrand, and was awarded the Leon Gluckman Prize 2013, for the student with the most creative piece of work.
Born in Uganda, Nick Makoha fled the country with his mother as a result of the political dictatorship of Idi Amin. In 2005 the award-winning publisher Flippedeye launched its pamphlet series with his debut The Lost Collection of an Invisible Man and he is currently working on his first full poetry collection The Second Republic, from which his poem Resurrection Man was shortlisted for the Flamingofeather Poetry Competition in 2013. Nick represented Uganda in the Cultural Olympiad Poetry Parnassus at London’s Royal Festival Hall. His one-man show My Father & Other Superheroes debuted to sold-out performances at both the 2013 London Literature Festival and the Unicorn Theatre. A national tour begins at the end of 2014. He has been a panelist at both the inaugural Being A Man Festival (Fatherhood: Past, Present & Future) and Women Of The World Festival (Bringing Up Boys).
Liyou Mesfin Libsekal is from Ethiopia. We are still trying to contact her to notify her that she has made this shortlist.
For more updates and additional information stay tuned to this website or contact Bernardine Evaristo at Bernardine.Evaristo@brunel.ac.uk.