TJ Dema, winner of the 2018 Sillerman Prize.

Submissions for the 2019 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets have begun. The 2018 Prize was awarded to Botswana’s TJ Dema, for her manuscript The Careless Seamstress.

Backed by the philanthropists Laura and Robert FX Sillerman—as part of their overall funding of the African Poetry Book Fund—the $1,000 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets honours the finest first full-length poetry manuscript by an African and comes with a book publication offer.  

The deadline for submissions for the 2019 Prize is 1 December 2018. The winner will be announced in January 2019 and their manuscript will be published by the University of Nebraska Press in the US and Amalion Press in Senegal.


  • African writers who have not published a book-length poetry collection. This excludes self-published authors whose books were sold online, in stores, or at readings.
  • The prize defines an “African writer” to be someone who was born in Africa, who is a national or resident of an African country, or whose parents are African.
  • All submissions must be in the English language. The organizers will consider poetry submissions that have been translated from another language to English. However, the author will have to split the prize with the translator.

Submission Guidelines:

  • Ensure that your poetry manuscript is at least 50 pages long.
  • The Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets is judged anonymously. The author’s name should not appear on the manuscript. Please include a cover page listing only the title of the manuscript (not the author’s name, address, telephone number, or email address).
  • Submit your manuscript via the APBF submittable page.
  • Multiple submissions will be considered. If you have more than one collection, feel free to submit them for consideration.

The prize is judged by the editorial board of the African Poetry Book Fund: poet and novelist Chris Abani, poet Gabeba Baderoon, novelist and Brunel Prize founder Bernardine Evaristo, Aracelis Girmay, John Keene, poet and essayist Matthew Shenoda, and Phillippa Yaa de Villiers, and poet Kwame Dawes, editor-in-chief of Prairie Schooner.

Other winners of the Sillerman First Book Prize include: Kenya’s Clifton Gachagua in 2013, for Madman at Kilifi; Somalia’s Ladan Osman in 2014, for The Kitchen-Dweller’s Testimony; Ethiopian-Eritrean Mahtem Shiferraw in 2015, for Fuchsia; Sudan’s Safia Elhillo in 2016, for The January Children; and Zimbabwe’s Bernard Matambo in 2017, for Stray.