20.35 Africa, Vol. II. Cover design by Osinachi.

In November 2018, we published the debut volume of the 20.35 Africa: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry series. The first of its kind to focus only on poetry from across the continent, the project—edited by the Nigerian poets Ebenezer Agu, D. E. Benson, Gbenga Adeoba, and Chisom Okafor, and the visual artist Osinachi—pushed institutional boundaries in the modern African poetry landscape by facing newer voices, most of whom were yet to enter the orbit of the major poetry organisations, and collecting their strong work alongside those by better-known poets. As Agu puts it in his Editor’s Note for Volume II, the collective’s aim is to advocate for “multiple conversations on the sensibilities of being African in a modern, global system.”

READ: Introduction to 20.35 Africa: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, Vol. I | Safia Elhillo & Gbenga Adesina

The series’ first volume, guest-edited by Brunel Prize winners Gbenga Adesina and Safia Elhillo, collected works by 32 poets, including Brunel Prize winners Liyou Libsekal and Romeo Oriogun, Brittle Paper Award for Poetry winner JK Anowe, BN Poetry Award winner Lilian Aujo, and Winter Tangerine founder Yasmin Belkhyr. It came with blurbs by some major poets of the older generation, including Rhode Island School of Design professor & African Poetry Book Fund (APBF) editor Matthew Shenoda, University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor Hope Wabuke, and Cornell University professor & Mabati-Cornell Kiswahili Prize co-founder Mukoma wa Ngugi, who stated that “the publication of this anthology boldly marks a before and after moment in the African literary tradition.”

This second volume, guest-edited by Belkhyr and Kayo Chingonyi, features Brunel Prize winners Momtaza Mehri and Nadra Mabrouk, Brittle Paper Award for Fiction winner Megan Ross, Brunel Prize finalist Saddiq Dzukogi, Maneo Mohale, Echezonachukwu Nduka, Sihle Ntuli, Goodness Olanrewaju Ayoola, Jay Kophy, Oubah Osman, Rotimi Robert, Adeeko Ibukun, Chinua Ezenwa-Ohaeto, Nome Emeka Patrick, Sara Elkamel, Emmanuel Oppong-Yeboah, Hauwa Shaffii Nuhu, Ugochi Okakor, Precious Okpechi, Kopano Maroga, Sibulelo Manamatela, Asisipho Shaun Burwana, Sinaso Mxakaza, Jeremiah Agbaakin, Ekpenyong Kosisochukwu, Oyin Olalekan, Ianne, Isabelle Baffi, Kondwa Rayne, and Nermeen Hegazi. It is blurbed by the Somali American Sillerman Prize winner Ladan Osman and the Nigerian poet Peter Akinlabi.

READ: In Conversation: Cheswayo Mphanza & Nkateko Masinga Discuss Language, Trauma, Identity Politics, and the Poems in 20.35 Africa Anthology

The existence of a space like 20.35 Africa is necessary not only for its unique approach but also because there are so few continental platforms for poetry in Africa: with the Babishai-Niwe Poetry Award (2009-), the Brunel International African Poetry Prize (2012-), the African Poetry Book Fund (APBF) and its Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry, Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets, and New-Generation African Poets Chapbook Box Sets (2013-), the Praxis Magazine Chapbook Series (2016-), and the Brittle Paper Award for Poetry (2017-) being the only ones.

As a project dedicated to honouring the work of the generation that birthed it, the first volume was dedicated to the late Ugandan poet Joel Benjamin Ntwatwa, who passed on last year. In keeping with this, this second volume is dedicated to the late Nigerian poet Chukwuemeka Akachi, who passed on this year.

READ: 20.35 Africa: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, Vol. II

The 12th anthology published by Brittle Paper, this issue continues our support and collaborations with independent projects, including 14: Queer Art, Nigeria’s first LGBTQ+ collective & magazine, The Afro Anthology Series, the continent’s first to collect creative nonfiction, The Art Naija Series, which explores different aspects of Nigerianness, and Go the Way Your Blood Beats, which centers queer lives in Southern Africa.