safia-elhillo

Everyone knows that the best part of participating in a literary prize is winning. So big congrats to Sudanese-American poet Safia Elhillo, who recently won the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets.

The African Poetry Book Fund made the announcement, in collaboration with Prairie Schoonerearlier this month. Elhillo comes out the winner in a tight race with five other brilliant poetsNick Makoha (Uganda), D.M. Aderibigbe (Nigerian), Viola Allo (Cameroon), Shittu Fowora (Nigerian), and Nebeolisa Okwudili (Nigeria).

Her win comes as no surprise. What is remarkable and worth celebrating is the fact that she is getting all this recognition for her amazingly experimental work.

Winning seems to be effortless for Elhillo. Last year, she was one of two winners of the prestigious Brunel University African Poetry Prize. [read here if you missed it]

Winning these prizes shows that Elhillo is on the rise as a major voice in African poetry. But that is only half the story. Elhillo is part of a growing community of African writers producing experimental work and gaining recognition for it.

In “Quarantine With Abdelhalim Hafez,” one of the poems that won her the Brunel prize, Elhillo uses a mix of Arabic script and English, in addition to a playful typographic structure to create a powerful poetic meditation on language itself. Her poems put pressure on language in interesting ways and pushes the boundaries on African writing. Gabeba Baderoon, who served on the panel of judges, confirms this when she remarks that Elhillo’s poems “demonstrate a riveting sense of the power of language.”

Elhillo’s openness to experiment with language and form is important, especially, at a time when African writers are under pressure to conform to conventional expectations about what good African writing is. It is refreshing to see a young and gifted writer forging her way in a highly competitive global literary landscape. It is, however, infinitely more important that she is doing this on her own terms by producing boundary pushing work.

Thanks to her Sillerman win, she is 1000 dollars richer, and her poetry collection titled Asmarani is set for a 2017 publication. The collection will be “part of the New Generation African Poets: A Chapbook Box Set (Tatu), from the African Poetry Book Fund with Akashic Books.”

Kudos to the organizers and backers of the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets and congrats to Elhillo. She is certainly one to watch out for!

Get a taste of Elhillo’s work in a performance she gave at TedxNewYork

 

*********

Image from artist’s tumblr page.

Tags: , , , , ,

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. African Poetry Book Fund | Interview With Sillerman Prize Winner Safia Elhillo - 2016/02/25

    […] Elhillo was also recently profiled at Brittle Paper. […]

Leave a Reply

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Archives

The Public Execution | by Olisa Onyekaonwu | African Fiction

execution

“…long after the van had taken off…the cry of the prisoner still hovered in the air, like the aroma of […]

The Hummingbird | by Kofi Sey Simpson | African Poetry

hummingbird

“A mockery, designed to quell my grace in flight.”   In this cage, everything is upright and strong, Each bar […]

Ripples | by Miracle Amaka Nwokedi | African Fiction

ripples

“Unlike most mothers in Umuona, Mama did not possess that inner eyes of a mother to make out her daughter’s […]

How the Huza Press Prize for Fiction is Reshaping Rwandan Literature

huza prize

It was the pressing need to reclaim our narrative, which as many of you are aware was being largely told […]

PHOTOS: Chibundu Onuzo Redefines the Classic Literary Book Launch Party

chibundu (1)

A few days ago, book lovers gathered at London’s Southbank Center for the launch of Chibundu Onuzo’s second novel, Welcome […]

Teju Cole is a Finalist for PEN America’s Richest ($75,000) Prize

teju cole 3

Congrats to Teju Cole for being named a finalist in what might be PEN’s most prestigious prize yet. The PEN/Jean […]