Gbenga Adeoba, has been announced winner of the 2019 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets, making him the first Nigerian awardee of the prestigious award. His entry for the prize was his manuscript, Exodus, which is a compilation of some of his poems.
The prize is awarded every year to one African poet yet to publish a collection of poetry, and the winner is given a cash prize of $1000 as well as the opportunity to publish the collection through the University of Nebraska Press and Amalion Press in Senegal.
African Poetry Book Fund (APBF), organisers of the contest, say the award “is made possible through the generosity of philanthropists Laura and Robert F.X. Sillerman, whose generous contributions have facilitated the establishment of the APBF.”
According to Brittle Paper, information about the recipient of this year’s award was revealed in newsletter by Praire Schooner, a poetry magazine edited by Kwame Dawes, APBF director and co-founder. It was also noted that Emeka Nome, also a Nigeria, was among the finalists for the prize for his work, We Need New Moses. Or New Luther King. Adeoba is one of the magazine’s five poetry contributors.
Past winners of the Sillerman First Book Prize are: Kenya’s Clifton Gachagua in 2013, for Madman at Kilifi; Somalia’s Ladan Osman in 2014, for The Kitchen-Dweller’s Testimony; Ethiopian-Eritrean Mahtem Shiferraw in 2015, for Fuchsia; Sudan’s Safia Elhillo in 2016, for The January Children; Zimbabwe’s Bernard Matambo in 2017, for Stray; and finally Botswana’s TJ Dema last year, for The Careless Seamstress.
Entries received for the prize are judged by an APBF editorial board comprising Kwame Dawes, Chris Abani, Matthew Shenoda, John Keene, Gabeba Baderoon, Bernardine Evaristo, Phillippa Yaa de Villiers, and Aracelis Girmay.
Adeoba was also among eight young African writers shortlisted in 2018 for the Brunel International African Poetry Prize. He currently studies for a Master of Fine Arts degree at the Iowa Creative Writing Workshop. He is an editor of 20.35 Africa: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, and also associate editor at Kreative Diadem.
His works of poetry have appeared in Notre Dame Review, Hotel Amerika, Poet Lore, Salamander Magazine, Pleiades, Agbowo, Elsewhere, Juked, among other literary platforms.
He is a 2015 graduate of Communication and Language Arts from the University of Ibadan, and describes himself “a creative, goal-driven and committed individual with interest in communication and creative industries with the goal of becoming a leading innovator and multi-disciplinary problem solver in a global and visionary company”.