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Exceptional six make African Poetry Prize shortlist


Six emerging poets are shortlisted for the Brunel International African Poetry Prize 2020.

The £3000 prize aims to highlight and inspire new poetry from Africa.

Some 1,000 people entered this year’s competition – double the amount who stepped up eight years ago when it started in 2012. There are now more entries from North Africa after Egypt’s Nadra Mabrouk was co-winner last year.

In the running this year are Akosua Afiriyie-Hwedie from Zambia, Rabha Ashry and Nour Kamel, both from Eygpt, Nigeria’s Inua Ellams, Amanda Holiday from Sierra Leone and Saradha Soobrayen from Mauritius. 

“When I started the prize, African poetry was almost invisible on the international literary landscape,” said founder, Professor Bernardine Evaristo. “Today there are legions of poets out there successfully building careers and being heard.”

2019 Booker Prize winner, for her novel, Girl, Woman, Other, Professor Evaristo teaches creative writing at Brunel University London. 

She added: “This quiet revolution demonstrates the power of initiatives such as this one and the African Poetry Book Fund in the USA to revolutionise the literature of an entire continent. Today the future looks very bright and African poetry is staking its claim as a major force in world literature.”

Backed by Brunel University London, the prize is open to African poets worldwide who have not yet published a full poetry collection. Each poet has to submit 10 poems in order to be eligible. 

The judging panel is made up of poets and academics Karen McCarthy Woolf, Kayo Chingonyi, Billy Kahora, Momtaza Mehri and Koleka Putuma. 

 2013's winner Warsan Shire, from Somalia, collaborated with Beyonce on her album, Lemonade, while the prize’s first openly gay poet and 2017 winner Nigerian Romeo Oriogun is now a Fellow at Harvard University.

 This year's winner will be announced on May 4.