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"Revolutionise the literature of an entire continent": African Poetry Prize shortlist announced

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The Poets: Top Row - Mary-Alice Daniel , Selina Nwulu , Emmanuel Oppong, Inua Ellams, Nadra Mabrouk -- Bottom Row - Omotara James, K. Eltinae, Afua Ansong, Sherry Shenoda, Jamila Osman

Up-and-coming poets from five African nations have been shortlisted for the seventh Brunel International African Poetry Prize – a major annual celebration of the development and promotion of poetry from Africa.

The £3000 prize, sponsored by Brunel University London, is open to African poets worldwide who have not yet published a full poetry collection. Each poet was asked to submit ten poems to be assessed by the panel of judges, which this year consists of three celebrated poets – Matthew Shenoda from Egypt, Leila Chatti from Tunisia and Phillippa Yaa de Villiers from South Africa.

 Over 1000 entries from around the world were whittled down to a shortlist of just 10 talented poets: 

  • Afua Ansong (Ghana)
  • Mary-Alice Daniel (Nigeria)
  • Inua Ellams (Nigeria)
  • K. Eltinae (Nubian Sudan)
  • Omotara James (Nigeria)
  • Nadra Mabrouk (Egypt)
  • Selina Nwulu (Nigeria)
  • Emmanuel Oppong (Ghana)
  • Jamila Osman (Somalia)
  • Sherry Shenoda (Egypt)

The winner of the prize, announced 30 May 2019, will join a rank of previous winners who have subsequently gone on to publish full collections and enjoy other successes. 2013's winner Warsan Shire, from Somalia, subsequently collaborated with Beyonce on her album, Lemonade, whilst the 2017 winner, Nigeria’s Romeo Oriogun – the prize’s first openly gay poet – is now a Fellow at Harvard University. One of last year’s three winners, Theresa Lola, from Nigeria, published her first full collection this year, In Search of Equilibrium.

Founder of the prize Prof Bernardine Evaristo has seen the quality of poetry increase exponentially each year, and says it now attracts an diverse assortment of new poets with their own differing styles and thematic interests. The prize works closely with Kwame Dawes and the African Poetry Book Fund in the USA, who have previously published many of the shortlisted authors in their chapbook series as a stepping stone towards producing a full publication.

"When I started the prize in 2012, African poetry was almost invisible on the literary landscape. Today there are legions of poets out there successfully building careers and being heard,” said Prof Evaristo, a Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel . “It demonstrates the power of schemes such as mine, the African Poetry Book Fund and other initiatives, to revolutionise the literature of an entire continent. The future looks very bright.”

Reported by:

Tim Pilgrim, Media Relations
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