Winners of the 2018 Brunel International African Poetry Prize
Hiwot Adilow (Ethiopia), Theresa Lola (Nigeria), and Momtaza Mehri (Somalia) have been announced as winners of the 6th Brunel International African Poetry Prize. Sponsored by Brunel University London and the African Poetry Book Fund, the prize amount is £3000.
Unlike previous years that saw single winners and joint-winners, the Brunel “judges decided to award the prize to the three poets they considered the most outstanding”.
The panel of judges included poets and professors: Malika Booker, poet, multi-disciplinary artist and author of Pepper Seed; Kwame Dawes, poet, professor, director of the African Poetry Book Fund and a chancellor of the Academy of American Poet; Diana Evans, journalist and author of three novels including award-winning 26a; Mahtem Shiferraw, poet and visual artist; and, Bernardine Evaristo, author of eight books, professor of creative writing at Brunel University London and founder of the prize.
Previous winners of the prize include: Warsan Shire (Somalia); Liyou Libsekal (Ethiopia); Safia Elhillo (Sudan) and Nick Makoha (Uganda); Gbenga Adesina (Nigeria) and Chekwube O. Danladi (Nigeria); Romeo Oriogun (Nigeria).
This year’s winners were chosen out of 1000 entries, and a shortlist of eight.
Author of the chapbook In The House of My Father, Hiwot Adilow is an Ethiopian-American and has work published in numerous journals including: Nepantla, Winter Tangerine, Vinyl Poetry and Prose. Speaking about Hiwot’s poetry, the judges said: “Hiwot Adilow’s transgressive poems return to the body as a site for meaning, memory, and reckoning. She has discovered that poetry’s contract with the senses makes it the most suitable vehicle for poems that will speak of the ways in which a woman’s body has to be written with care, boldness and discipline. These are poems of skill, vulnerability and daring, and which show, ultimately, a delight in language.”
On Theresa Lola’s work, the judges said: “Theresa Lola seeks to articulate the frailties, complications and brutalities inflicted by the body through microscopic imagery that is grotesque and distorted yet surprisingly tender. Hers is a poetic where peeling is the recurring motif—we witness peeling of black skins and peeling of tongues. The poetry is also unflinchingly composed, whether she is portraying a daughter cutting her father’s spine or the ravages of a father’s illness where cancer has kissed death unto his kidneys”. Theresa is a Nigerian-British poet and an alumna of the Barbican Young Poets programme. She has been shortlisted for the 2017 Bridport Poetry Prize, the 2016 London Magazine Poetry Prize, and was winner of the Hammer and Tongue National Poetry Slam in 2017. Theresa has facilitated workshops, and was on the panel of judges of 2017 Magic Oxygen Poetry Prize and 2017 Outspoken Poetry Prize.
Currently the Young People’s Laureate of London, 24-year-old poet and essayist Momtaza Mehri edits Diaspora Drama, an online platform that encourages and publishes immigrant art, poetry, self-expressions. Speaking about her work, the judges said: “Momtaza Mehri draws on her Muslim and Somali background to write poetry of great topicality and urgency.” They added that, “her poems are also quietly powerful bullets of searing intelligence and compassion. There are many unforgettable images and imaginative uses of language, and an audaciousness and versatility with form that marks her out as a voice with a bright future ahead of her.”