Nigerian poet, playwright & educator, Othuke Umukoro, has emerged winner of the Brunel International African Poetry Prize 2021, a major prize aimed at the development, celebration and promotion of poetry from Africa worth £3000.
The organisers made the announcement on the prize’s website.
Sponsored by Brunel University London and open to African poets worldwide who have not yet published a full poetry collection, the judges this year were poets: Karen McCarthy Woolf (Chair), Rustum Kozain (South Africa) and Makhosazana Xaba (South Africa). The announcement said the judges were unanimous in their decision and said: ‘The language is lush, mesmeric at times and the balance between lyric and narrative deftly handled. There is a technical competence too. These are unafraid, thoughtful pieces — playful, yet serious, making us look at love, life, mortality afresh. The elegiac A Mountain Cracks Before Translation — mourning the suicide of a brother found hanging — heartbreaking, but never gratuitous in its detail. A complex poet, with the formal skills to match the weight of the subjects he takes on, whether it’s sexuality and the family dynamic, HIV, or nature, ecology and politics.”
The shortlisted poets were Kweku Abimbola (Gambia), Arao Ameny (Uganda), Isabelle Baafi (South Africa), Asmaa Jama (Somalia), Tumello Motabola (Lesotho), Oluwadare Popoola (Nigeria), Yomi Sode (Nigeria).
Born in Olomoro, a small town bounded by untamed rivers, in 1990, Othuke spent most of his childhood fishing & learning how to read from his mother. A University of Ibadan graduate, he has taught in an underserved public primary school in a low-income community as a fellow of Teach for Nigeria—a nonprofit organisation devoted to ending educational inequity. His poetry explores the language of quietness, the geography of memory, home, depression, hope, loss & occasionally the ‘other’ that hovers around traditional father-son relationships. He is a Pushcart & 2 x Best of the Net Nominee. His writing has been published in Agbowó, Crooked Arrow Press, Random Sample Review Mineral Lit Mag, The Sunlight Press, Kissing Dynamite Poetry Journal, Sleet Magazine & elsewhere. He tweets @Othuke__Umukoro