Tsitsi Jaji

Winner of the 2018 Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize

Tsitsi Jaji has been named winner of the 2018 Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize for her collection of poems, Mother Tongues. Judged by Matthew Shenoda, “the award celebrates and publishes works of lasting cultural value and literary excellence…” and is “for Black poets of African descent” and their second books.

In addition to the prize amount of $1000, Tsitsi Jaji’s Mother Tongues will be published by Northwestern University Press in2019,  and she will be receive fifteen (15) copies of the book.

Speaking about Tsitsi Jaji’s book, Matthew Shenoda said that “With considered precision and a scholar’s lens, we [the reader] dive deep into the cultural productions of a global Africa rife with brilliance and possibility.”

Born in 1976 in Zimbabwe and currently an associate professor of English teaching on African and African American Studies at Duke University, Tsitsi Jaji is the author of a chapbook Carnaval, a full-length poetry book Beating the Graves, and a scholarly book Africa in Stereo: Music, Modernism and Pan-African Solidarity. She is the winner of the 2016 African Literature Association’s First Book Prize. She has also received fellowships and honors from the Schomburg Center (NEH), the Society for the Humanities at Cornell, Mellon Foundation, and Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. Her scholarly essays and poems have appeared in numerous publications including Harvard Review, Prairie Schooner, Boston Review, Poetry International, and has held readings at Poetry Foundation, Library of Congress, and the United Nations.

Here reads something from her poem, Préambule: “In the rain’s rush. / Listen. Listen.” And another line from another poem: “In our nation a waterfall is a cauldron of steaming falsehoods.”

The Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize is among the three book prizes of Cave Canem, a foundation and movement that engineers the cultivation, promotion and wider representation of African American poetry and poets. Cave Canem was founded by Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady in 1996.

Grand Marronage by Dr. Irène P. Mathieu, a pediatrician and poet, was picked as runner-up for the prize.