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Kwame Dawes. Image from The Daily Nebraskan.

Kwame Dawes—Emmy-winning poet, founding editor of African Poetry Book Fund (APBF), and editor of Prairie Schooner—is developing a digital portal for African poetry at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he is also a Chancellor’s Professor of English, reports The Daily Nebraskan. “The African Digital Portal,” to be launched in 2019, “will feature artifacts, newspapers and manuscripts related to African poetry, dating from the 19th century to the modern era.”

Dawes’ project will be funded with a $150,000 grant from Ford Foundation, a group he says “helps to promote initiatives taken by the African Poetry Book Fund to support African arts” and “has been supportive in recognizing the importance of [digitizing] African Poetry.”

“The portal will provide a single place where one can learn a great deal about African poetry,” Dawes stated. “The APBF is committed to creating an open-access platform which will allow scholars, poets and lovers of poetry to freely access the data that will be available on the portal.”

The project, which has just begun, “includes listing poetry materials from African authors around the globe and organizing materials on specific regions of Africa,” states Prairie Schooner and APBF Managing Editor Ashley Strosnider. “People will be able to click on African regional maps where they will be linked to poetry based on a specific region.”

While Strosnider acknowledges that “some African poetry literature and publications may not be accessible because of lack of language translation and location tracking,” she hopes that “the online database will provide centralized access to people who are interested in learning more about African poetry.”

Kwame Dawes, who became the first African winner of Barnes & Noble’s Writers for Writers Award for his work in supporting other writers, was recently named a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

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OTOSIRIEZE is a writer, literary journalist, former academic, and Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper. A judge for the 2019 Gerald Kraak Award, he is an editor at 14, Nigeria’s first queer art collective which has published two volumes: WE ARE FLOWERS and THE INWARD GAZE. He is the curator of ART NAIJA SERIES, a sequence of themed e-anthologies of writing and visual art exploring different aspects of Nigerianness: ENTER NAIJA: THE BOOK OF PLACES (October, 2016) focuses on cities in Nigeria; WORK NAIJA: THE BOOK OF VOCATIONS (June, 2017) focuses on professions in Nigeria. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition, and has been shortlisted for the Miles Morland Writing Scholarship and the Gerald Kraak Award, both in 2016, and a Pushcart Prize in 2015. He attended the 2018 Miles Morland Foundation Creative Writing Workshop. He has completed a collection of short stories, YOU SING OF A LONGING, and is working on a novel. He is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. He combined history and literature at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and taught English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. When bored, the boy just Googles Rihanna. Find him at otosirieze.com, where he accepts editing and writing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze.

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