The winner of the 2017 Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry is Canadian poet Juliane Okot Bitek, of Uganda, for her collection 100 Days, published by the University of Alberta Press.
Here is what this year’s judge, John Keene, wrote about the selection:
In 100 Days, poet Juliane Okot Bitek set out to memorialize the tragedy of the Rwandan genocide, but the witnessing force of these brief, incantatory poems ripples outward to figuratively encompass multiple histories of violence and brutality, including the terror her own family and countless others faced under Idi Amin’s regime in Uganda. The lyric beauty, intertextual depth, and metonymic power of Okot Bitek’s poetry underscores the capacities of of art and language to cast light into the darkest corners of our human experience, and bridge the gulfs that lie between us.
In the prize’s fourth year, it is exciting to see the prize go to a woman — and a woman from a line of eventual poets. We look forward to continuing to broaden the global readership for these accomplished and urgent African voices.
The ongoing and excellent work of the African Poetry Book Fund recently received substantial support from the Ford Foundation, in the form of a $150,000 preliminary grant for the development of the African Poetry Digital Portal. APBF’s relationship with the Ford Foundation goes back a couple years, beginning when they brought poets and scholars from around the world together to edit The Anthology of Contemporary African Poetry. Since then, Ford Foundation has facilitated an additional meting regarding the Digital Index of Contemporary African Poetry and hosted a Celebration of African Poetry at their offices in New York. “The Ford Foundation has been extremely supportive of the work we’re doing,” said APBF Director Kwame Dawes. “There’s an appreciation on their part of the value and importance of this work, and a willingness to support the work financially and in terms of advice and guidance.”
Next up is beginning the developement of the hugely ambitious African Poetry Digital Portal. “The portal will index and provide access to the largest collection of manuscript images related to African poetry from antiquity to the modern era,” said Dawes. In addition to this incredible undertaking, it will also serve as a one-stop shop for a wealth of other materials related to African poetry, such as newspapers, periodicals, newsletters, audio and video recordings, websites, images, and more.
Looking toward the future, it’s not hard to see how this project fits into the larger vision of the APBF. “We are seriously committed to the mission of creating an environment that makes African poets feel confident that they are fully recognized in the larger literary community,” said Dawes. “Africans have been producing poetry for as long as any other civilization has, and new work by African poets comes out of a genuine artistic and intellectual context.” The portal, alongside other APBF projects, does much to place African poetry at the center of the larger discourse surrounding the art form, providing a needed injection of fresh voices and ideas. A heartfelt thanks to the Ford Foundation and our other supporters — like Laura and Robert F.X. Sillerman, whose generous support established the APBF, and Glenna Luschei, for whom the Luschei Prize for African Poetry is named — for sharing this ambitious vision, and making a commitment to support the hard work that is to come.
Glenna Luschei will join Michael Hannon as featured readers at Coalesce Chapel in Morro Bay, at 2pm on Sunday November 12. This reading is part of the 34th Annual Language of the Soul Poetry Festival.
Sun. Nov. 12th at 2:00pm
Coalesce Bookstore / Wedding Chapel
845 Main St. Morro Bay
The 2017 poetry festival will run November 4, 12, 17, 18 & 19. These events are funded in part by The Annual San Luis Obispo Poetry Festival / Corners of the Mouth, San Luis Obispo County Library, Poets and Writers Inc., through a major grant received from the James W. Irvine Foundation, and Glenna Luschei Horton. Donations will be accepted at all events.