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Eight poets, including six women, have been shortlisted for the 2018 Brunel International African Poetry Prize. The announcement was made in a statement published on the official website of the Prize.

Founded by Bernardine Evaristo in 2013, the £3,000 prize—co-sponsored by Commonwealth Writers, Brunel University, London and the African Poetry Book Fund—is in its sixth year and is “aimed at the development, celebration and promotion of poetry from Africa.” It is open to African poets worldwide who have not yet published a full poetry collection. Each poet has to submit 10 poems in order to be eligible.

Here are the shortlisted eight. Click on their names to read their entries:

Hiwot Adilow, Michelle Angwenyi, Dalia Elhassan, Noir Kamel, Theresa Lola, and Momtaza Mehri are all women, in what feels like a tribute—even if unintended—to the Women’s History Month. In its five years, the Brunel Prize has anointed seven winners and co-winners, with four of them being women.

The 2018 judges are: Kwame Dawes; Diana Evans; Malika Booker; Mahtem Shiferraw; and Chair and founder, Bernardine Evaristo. Evaristo has this to say about the shortlist:

“This year there were just over 1000 entries, double the amount we received when the Prize began in 2012. The quality of poetry submitted to the Prize has increased exponentially each year as the field of published African poets widens and they then become role models for even newer poets coming up. For example, when the Prize began there were a lot of Christian poems, and poems influenced by black poets of the 60s and 70s – a sign that aspiring poets on the continent were not being exposed to enough contemporary secular African poetry. Now we have an incredible assortment of twenty-first century poets exploring a wide range of themes and styles, such as last year’s winner, Romeo Oriogun.

We are also attracting more North African entries and for the second year a North African poet is shortlisted. We always aim to select a continental spread of talented poets, although we have more submissions from Nigeria than any other country. And while we are committed to finding poets who still live in Africa, the sad truth is that many of our shortlisted poets are those who have had access to a creative writing education and a literature development culture outside of the continent, especially in the US and UK, where creative writing courses proliferate, from informal workshop groups through to postgraduate degrees. There needs to be more creative writing opportunities for the aspiring writers who live in Africa.

We work closely with Kwame Dawes and the African Poetry Book Fund (APBF) at the University of Nebraska. All the winners and most of the shortlisted poets of the past five years have had poetry pamphlets published with APBF in their stunning New Generation African Poets series of box sets with Slappering Hol Press and Akashic Books (USA). Some of these poets are also publishing, or about to publish, their first full collections. This is an incredibly exciting time in the development of African poetry. We expect that many of the poets engaged in our impactful poetry initiatives will become the leading African poets of the future. Many of them are still very young, in their twenties, and we expect great things from them, but also those from poets who are older but still relatively new to publishing poetry. African poetry is now staking its claim on the global literary landscape. We are witnessing a quiet revolution.

The Brunel Prize was won by Somalia’s Warsan Shire in 2013, Ethiopia’s Liyou Libsekal in 2014, Sudan’s Safia Elhillo and Uganda’s Nick Makoha in 2015, Nigeria’s Gbenga Adesina and Chekwube O. Danladi in 2016, and Nigeria’s Romeo Oriogun in 2017. Gbenga Adesina and Romeo Oriogun were both published by Brittle Paper before their ascent.

As with 2016 when Saddiq Dzukogi and Kechi Nomu, both of whom were also published by Brittle Paper, joined Romeo Oriogun in that company on the shortlist, we are excited that, this year, the shortlist has Momtaza Mehri and Theresa Lola. We published Momtaza Mehri’s “New World Hymn” in 2016 and Theresa Lola’s “Portrait of Us as Snow White” in 2017.

Special congratulations to Momtaza Mehri and Theresa Lola, and to Gbenga Adeoba, Hiwot Adilow, Michelle Angwenyi, Dalia Elhassan, Nour Kamel, and Cheswayo Mphanza.

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Otosirieze is deputy editor of Brittle Paper. He is a judge for the 2018/19 Gerald Kraak Prize. He is an editor at 14, Nigeria’s first queer art collective, which has published volumes including We Are Flowers (2017) and The Inward Gaze (2018). He is the curator of the Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness, including Enter Naija: The Book of Places (2016), which explores cities, and Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (2017), which explores professions. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He has completed a collection of short stories, You Sing of a Longing, is working on a novel, and is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. He combined English and History at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is completing a postgraduate degree in African Studies, and taught English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. Find him at otosirieze.com, where he accepts writing and editing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze. When bored, he Googles Rihanna.

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