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To mark our seventh anniversary on August 1, 2017, we announced the inaugural Brittle Paper Literary Awards, to recognize the finest, original pieces of African writing published online. The awards come in five categories: Fiction, Poetry, Nonfiction, Essays/Think Pieces, and the Anniversary Award for works published on our blog. The winners in the fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction and essays/think pieces categories will receive $200 each, while the winner of our Anniversary Award will receive $300. The winners will be announced on October 23, 2017.

Meet the 10 Nominees for the Brittle Paper Award for Poetry

Nick Makoha. Image from Africa Poetry Prize.

Nick Makoha (Uganda), for “Pythagoras Theorem” in Adda

Nick Makoha is the author of  Kingdom of Gravity (Peepal Tree Press), which was shortlisted for the 2017 Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection. He is a joint winner of the 2015 Brunel International African Poetry Prize. His poetry manuscript,  Resurrection Man, won the 2016 Toi Derricotte & Cornelius Eady Chapbook Prize. A Cave Canem Graduate Fellow and Complete Works Alumni, his poems appeared in The Poetry ReviewRialtoThe Triquarterly ReviewBoston ReviewCallaloo, and Wasafiri. Website: www.nickmakoha.com.

a2

Remember that summer when

edges went? The whole night

became concentrated darkness.

A neon moon against a pitch sky.

Safia Elhillo. Image from As Us Journal.

Safia Elhillo (Sudan), for “application for asylum” in Frontier Poetry

Safia Elhillo is the author of The January Children (University of Nebraska Press, 2017). She is a co-winner of the 2015 Brunel International African Poetry Prize, winner of the 2016 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets, and a Pushcart Prize nominee. She received a BA from New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study and an MFA in poetry at the New School. She has received fellowships from Cave Canem, The Conversation, and Crescendo Literary and The Poetry Foundation’s Poetry Incubator. Her work has appeared in several journals and anthologies including The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop. With Fatimah Asghar, she is co-editor of the anthology Halal If You Hear MeShe has performed at TEDxNewYork, the South African State Theatre, the New Amsterdam Theater on Broadway, and TV1’s Verses & Flow. She was a founding member of Slam NYU, the 2012 and 2013 national collegiate championship team, and was a three-time member and former coach of the DC Youth Slam Poetry team. Currently a teaching artist with Split This Rock, her work has been translated into Arabic, Japanese, Estonian, and Greek.

how did you learn fear?
i crossed a body of water

how did you learn fear?
i grew a new american body it was the summer [      ] died

J.K. Anowe.

J.K. Anowe (Nigeria), for “Credo to Leave”  in Expound 

JK Anowe’s poems have been nominated for the Best On The Net, longlisted for the BN Poetry Award, and have appeared in Brittle PaperElsewhere Lit, Gnarled Oak, Poetry Life & Times, Expound Magazine, African Writer, The Muse journal of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and Praxis Magazine Online where he is Associate Poetry Editor. He is the recipient of the Festus Iyayi Award for Excellence (Poetry Category), University of Benin. When he’s not consumed by wanderlust, he lives, teaches French/Literature to a bunch of spoilt high school kids, and writes from somewhere in Nigeria, for now.

Do not believe what you see on TV

I’m so afraid of being happy it is the closest thing to shame

……………The world would still have itself

All noise & no sound/all rush & no reaching

If I wasn’t here

Mahtem Shiferraw. Image from The California Journal of Poetics.

Mahtem Shiferraw (Ethiopia/Eritrea), for “Your Body Is War” in Hermeneutic Chaos Journal 

Mahtem Shiferraw is a poet and visual artist who grew up in Ethiopia and Eritrea. She won the 2016 Sillerman Prize for African Poets and is the author of the poetry collection Fuchsia (University of Nebraska Press, 2016) and the chapbook Behind Walls & Glasses (Finishing Line Press). Her work has appeared in The 2River View, Cactus Heart Press, Blood Lotus Literary Journal, Luna Luna Magazine, Mandala Literary Journal, Blackberry: A Magazine, Diverse Voices Quarterly, The Bitter Oleander Press, Callaloo, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

because you have spent
enough time carving a wound
as big as a star, and when it’s ready
you flesh it out – its colors blindfolded,
and you hold it in your hands
and you sing a forgotten song for it

Fiston Mwanza Mujila. Image from Bookslive.co.za.

Fiston Mwanza Mujila (DR Congo), for “A Series of Solitudes” (Translated by Roland Glasser) in Enkare Review

Fiston Mwanza Mujila was born in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and writes poetry, prose, and theater that he sometimes translates himself into German. He is the author of the novel Tram 83, which was awarded the 2015 Etisalat Prize for Literature and the 2017 Internationaler Literaturpreis in Germany, and was longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize and the Prix du Monde. In 2010 he received a prize for the best play from Staatstheater Mainz. He teaches African literature at Universität Graz, Austria and works with musicians on various projects.

Solitude 61
in my belly there writhes a river,
wretched and lazy, vast and dirty, nasty and bleak,
a river in (advanced) state of dysentery …

Gbenga Adesina.

Gbenga Adesina (Nigeria), for “How to Paint a Girl” in The New York Times Magazine

Gbenga Adesina is a poet and essayist. He jointly won the 2016 Brunel African Poetry Prize. His poem, “How To Paint A Girl,” was selected by Mathew Zapruder for its “clarity of observation and empathetic insight into the suffering of another” for The New York Times in July 2016. He was a 2017 Emerging Poet Fellow at the Poets House, New York. Other honors include fellowships and scholarships from the Norman Mailer Center at Pepperdine University, Malibu, California, Fine Arts Work Centre, Provincetown, The Open Society Foundation in Goree Island, off the coast of Senegal, and Callaloo at Oxford. His poetry chapbook, Painter of Water was published by APBF and Akashic Books, New York in a series edited by Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani. His poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Brittle Paper, Vinyl, Ploughshares and elsewhere. His poetry manuscript, Holy Bodies, was a finalist for the 2017 Sillerman First Book Prize. He is currently a StarWorks Poetry Fellow/MFA candidate at New York University where he’ll also be teaching undergraduate poetry.

With him you come to learn
that when a man is called to paint a girl
he paints all of himself.

Koleka Putuma. Image from The Huffington Post South Africa.

Koleka Putuma (South Africa), for “Water” in PEN South Africa

Koleka Putuma is a theatre director, writer and performance Poet.  She is a resident poet and creative director of the collective Lingua Franca and Co-Founder of a theatre company called The Papercut Collective. Named South Africa’s first national slam champion in 2014, she won the 2016 PEN SA Student Writing Prize. She graduated with a BA in Theatre and Performance from the University of Cape Town. Her plays include UHM (2014) and Mbuzeni (2015/2016). At the Magnet Theatre Directing Residency in 2015, she created the plays, Ekhaya, for 2-7 year olds, and SCOOP, the first South African play for 2 weeks-12-month old babies. She was nominated for the 2015 Rosalie van der Gucht Prize for Best New Directors at the annual Fleur Du Cap Theatre Awards, has been named one of Africa’s Top 10 Poets by Badilisha, and as one of the young pioneers who took South Africa by storm in 2015 by The Sunday Times. Having headlined at TEDx, SliPnet’s Inzync Poetry Sessions, and Word N Sound, her work has been showcased in Scotland, Germany and around the US.

The memory of going to the beach every New Year’s eve

Is one I share with cousins and most people raised black

How the elders would forbid us from going in too deep.

Yalie Kamara.

Yalie Kamara (Sierra Leone/USA), for “I Ask My Brother Jonathan to Write about Oakland, and He Describes His Room” in African Poetry Prize

Yalie Kamara is a Sierra Leonean-American and native of Oakland, California. She is the author of the poetry collections When The Living Sing (Ledge Mule Press, 2017) and Brief Biography of My Name (Akashic Books, 2018). Her poetry and fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in Vinyl Poetry and Prose, Puerto del Sol, The Blueshift Journal, Pop-Up Magazine, and Amazon: Day One. She is a Callaloo Fellow, a 2017 National Book Critics Circle Emerging Critics Fellow, and was a finalist for the 2017 Brunel International African Poetry Prize. Her Website: www.yaylala.com.

  • NightThe Wretched of This Earth and This Is How You Lose Her on his desk.

  • The yellow legal pad with the line drawn down the center. Pros and cons of attending either Stanford or Columbia.

  • Pearlescent sunlight pushing through the blinds and slicing stripes on bed and body.

Romeo Oriogun.

Romeo Oriogun (Nigeria), for “Metamorphosis” in Brittle Paper

Romeo Oriogun’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Brittle Paper, Expound, LAMBDA, Afridiaspora, and African Writer, among others. He is the 2017 winner of the Brunel International African Poetry Prize and co-founder of the forthcoming Kabaka Magazine. He is the author of Burnt Men, an electronic chapbook published by Praxis Magazine Online, and was a Fellow of Ebedi International Writers Residency. His poetry chapbook, The Origin of Butterflies, will be published in 2018 by Akashic Books and African Poetry Book Fund.

He said flee from the heat wrecking your body, and you ran to a place where water running over pebbles is a whisper of wildness, where lost birds are boys hiding their heads under wings as they touch their wetness in the dark & whisper hallelujah.

Kayo Chingonyi. Image from African Poetry Prize.

Kayo Chingonyi (Zambia/UK), for “The Colour of James Brown’s Scream” in African Poetry Prize 

Kayo Chingonyi is the author of the poetry pamphlets, Some Bright Elegance (Salt, 2012) and The Colour of James Brown’s Scream (Akashic, 2016), and the collection, Kumukanda (Chatto & Windus, 2017). Winner of the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize, he has twice been shortlisted for the Brunel International African Poetry Prize, in 2013 and 2017. In 2012 he represented Zambia at The Southbank Centre’s Poetry Parnassus. He was Associate Poet at the Institute of Contemporary Arts from Autumn 2015 to Spring 2016. He co-edited issue 62 of Magma Poetry and the Autumn 2016 edition of The Poetry Review. A Fellow of the Complete Works programme for diversity and quality in British Poetry, he has completed residencies with Kingston University, Cove Park, First Story, The Nuffield Council on Bioethics, and Royal Holloway University of London in partnership with Counterpoints Arts.

I have known you by many names
but today, you are Larry Levan,
your hand on the platter, in the smoky
room of a Garage regular’s memory.

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About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young was born in Aba, Nigeria and attended the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. A finalist for the 2016 Miles Morland Writing Scholarship, his short stories include: “A Tenderer Blessing,” which appears in Transition Magazine and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2015; “Mulumba,” which appears in The Threepenny Review; and “You Sing of a Longing,” which was shortlisted for the inaugural Gerald Kraak Award and appears in Pride and Prejudice, an anthology by The Jacana Literary Foundation and The Other Foundation. His essays appear in Interdisciplinary Academic Essays and in Brittle Paper where he is Deputy Editor. His interviews appear in Africa in Dialogue, Bakwa Magazine, SPRINNG, and Dwartonline. He is the editor of the Art Naija Series, a sequence of themed e-anthologies of writing and visual art exploring different aspects of Nigerianness. The first, Enter Naija: The Book of Places (October 2016), focuses on Nigerian cities. The second, Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (June 2017), focuses on professions in Nigeria. A postgraduate student of African Studies, he currently teaches English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu, Nigeria. When bored, he blogs pop culture at naijakulture.blogspot.com or just Googles Rihanna.

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  1. The Nominees for the Brittle Paper Award for Poetry are… – Afrikáná - 2017/10/04

    […] to read more about the poets and the prize, visit Brittle Paper […]

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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.

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