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Rabha Ashry is the winner of the 2020 Brunel International African Poetry Prize. The news was announced an hour ago on the official Twitter handle of the prize.

Ashry is the second Egyptian to win the prize. Last year, Nadra Mabrouk won the prize alongside Jamila Osman. Ashry emerges winner out of 1000 entries and a shortlist of poets that included Akosua Afiriyie-Hwedie, Inua Ellams, Amanda Holiday, Nour Kamel, and Saradha Soobrayen.

Ashry currently lives in Chicago where she attended the School of the Arts Institute of Chicago and received an MFA. Her work has appeared in Oyez reviewCollected 2018, Airport Road, Electra Street, and Strange Horizons. Her work explores questions of “exile, the diaspora, and living between languages.”

The judging panel was chaired by Karen McCarthy Woolf and included Kayo Chingonyi, Billy Kahora, Momtaza Mehri and Koleka Putuma. The judges had high praise for Ashry’s work, noting that her poetry:

remind[s] us of what can be at stake in a poem. Each twist of phrase and line is weighed carefully achieving a fruitful balance between harmony and dissonance, the mundane and the haunting, the ordinary and extraordinary. She deftly interweaves a range of powerful, and sometimes jarring, images. It feels as if the collection is performing a kind of undoing and unmasking. The poet’s voice subverts the safety of language and imagery, and has you feeling displaced and desperate to be belong – to root, in all the ways that are uncomfortable, challenging and necessary. Deceptively simple, these are poems which echo long after they finish on the page.

Now in its seventh year, Brunel International African Poetry Prize is the richest prize for African poetry. “It is is aimed at the development, celebration and promotion of poetry from Africa.

Sponsored by the Brunel University London, the prize was founded by Evaristo, who is also a Professor of Creative Writing at the institution.

Past winners include Warsan Shire, Safia Elhillo, Nick Makoha, Hiwot Adilow, Theresa Lola, Momtaza Mehri, and many more.

Brittle Paper congratulates Ashry!


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Ainehi Edoro is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches African literature. She received her doctorate at Duke University. She is the founder and editor of Brittle Paper and series editor of Ohio University Press’s Modern African Writer’s imprint.

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