The 2019 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets has been awarded to Nigeria’s Gbenga Adeoba for his manuscript titled Exodus.
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 from the University of Nebraska Press.
While, at this time of writing, an announcement is yet to appear on the Sillerman Prize’s page on the Africa Poetry Book Fund (APBF) website, Adeoba’s win appears in a newsletter from Prairie Schooner, the renowned poetry magazine edited by APBF co-founder and director Kwame Dawes. Also noted in the newsletter is another Nigerian finalist for the prize: Emeka Nome, for We Need New Moses. Or New Luther King. Both poets have been published in the magazine.
Gbenga Adeoba was shortlisted for the 2018 Brunel International African Poetry Prize. His poetry has further appeared in Oxford Poetry, Pleiades, Salamander, Notre Dame Review, Hotel Amerika, Poet Lore, and Dwart Online. Currently studying for an MFA at the Iowa Creative Writing Workshop, Adeoba is an editor at 20.35 Africa: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, a project pushing institutional boundaries on the continental literary scene.
“I’m really honored,” Adeoba said about his win, and about the publication: “I know the manuscript is in good hands.” One of the poems in Exodus, “A Funeral Hymn in Falsetto,” can be read on Salamander.
The Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets is judged by the editorial board of the African Poetry Book Fund: the poet and novelist Chris Abani, the poet Gabeba Baderoon, the novelist and Brunel Prize founder Bernardine Evaristo, the poet and essayist Matthew Shenoda, the poets Aracelis Girmay, John Keene, and Phillippa Yaa de Villiers, and Kwame Dawes.
The prize, which is in its seventh year, has seen all of its winners come from different countries: 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; Zimbabwe’s Bernard Matambo in 2017, for Stray; and Botswana’s TJ Dema in 2018, for The Careless Seamstress.
Brittle Paper congratulates Gbenga Adeoba.