By: Onifade Bello A.
Two young Nigerians, Gbenga Adeoba and Theresa Lola, have been shortlisted in the 2018 Brunel International African Poetry Prize.
The Prize is sponsored by Brunel University, London and the African Poetry Book Fund. Other poets shortlisted for the Prize include Nour Kamel (Egypt), Hiwot Adilow (Ethiopia), Michelle Agwenyi (Kenya), Momtaza Mehri (Somalia), Dalia Elhassan (Sudan) and Cheswayo Mphanza (Zambia).
Open to African poets worldwide who have not yet published a full poetry collection, the Brunel International African Poetry Prize is a major prize of £3000 aimed at the development, celebration and promotion of poetry from Africa. Each poet has to submit 10 poems in order to be eligible.
The shortlisted poets were evaluated by a team of judges which comprised of poets and academics. The judges were Chair and founder, Bernardine Evaristo (Brunel University, London); Kwame Dawes (University of Nebraska); Malika Booker; Diana Evans; and Mahtem Shiferraw.
Commenting on the shortlist, the Chair and founder, Bernardine Evaristo said, “This year, there were just over 1000 entries, double the amount we received when the Prize began in 2012. The quality of poetry submitted to the Prize has increased exponentially each year as the field of published African poets widens and they then become role models for even newer poets coming up. For example, when the Prize began there were a lot of Christian poems, and poems influenced by black poets of the 60s and 70s – a sign that aspiring poets on the continent were not being exposed to enough contemporary secular African poetry.”
She, however, noted that, “Now we have an incredible assortment of twenty-first century poets exploring a wide range of themes and styles, such as last year’s winner, Romeo Oriogun, who was our first openly gay winner. We are also attracting more North African entries and for the second year a North African poet is shortlisted. We always aim to select a continental spread of talented poets, although we have more submissions from Nigeria than any other country.”
“And while we are committed to finding poets who still live in Africa, the sad truth is that many of our shortlisted poets are those who have had access to a creative writing education and a literature development culture outside of the continent, especially in the US and UK, where creative writing courses proliferate, from informal workshop groups through to postgraduate degrees. There needs to be more creative writing opportunities for the aspiring writers who live in Africa,” she added.
Expressing great optimism in the potentials of African poets and their budding prowess, she concluded, “This is an incredibly exciting time in the development of African poetry. We expect that many of the poets engaged in our impactful poetry initiatives will become the leading African poets of the future. Many of them are still very young, in their twenties, and we expect great things from them, but also those from poets who are older but still relatively new to publishing poetry. African poetry is now staking its claim on the global literary landscape. We are witnessing a quiet revolution.”
One of the Nigerian poets on the shortlist, Gbenga Adeoba, is a graduate of Communication and Language Arts from the University of Ibadan, and another, Theresa Lola, is a British Nigerian with many accolades in poetic performance. Lola has performed across the UK and internationally, and was the 2017 Hammer and Tongue National Slam Champion.
Describing Lola’s poetic and literary expertise, the British-born poet and writer, Anthony Anaxagorou, remarked, “It must be said that Theresa Lola will soon become one of the most important writers in the UK.”
Other Nigerians who have in the past won the Prize include Gbenga Adesina and Chekwube O. Danladi (2016); and Romeo Oriogun (2017).