Koleka Putuma is the winner of the Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry 2018 for her collection Collective Amnesia in an announcement made on May 31, 2019.
The Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry is named for poet, publisher, editor, businesswoman, and philanthropist, Glenna Luschei. Administered by the African Poetry Book Fund, it is awarded annually to a book published in the previous calendar year by an African poet. Previous winners of the prize have been Juliane Okot Bitek (2017), Rethabile Masilo (2016), Kobus Moolman (2015), and Amu Nnadi (2014).
The finalists for this year’s prize announced on May 24 were A Woman’s Body is a Country by Dami Ajayi, Kingdom of Gravity by Nick Makoha, and Collective Amnesia by Koleka Putuma. The collections were being judged by award-winning author of seven books of fiction and verse fiction that explore aspects of the African diaspora Bernardine Evaristo. She is also the founder of the Brunel International Africa Poetry Prize.
On the winning book the judge Evaristo said, “Everything about this poetry debut feels fresh and timely. Putuma, writing from a queer female perspective, has a liberated poetic voice that engages with politics, race, religion, relationships, sexuality, feminism and more. There is also risky formal innovation, emotional and intellectual complexity, biblical intertextuality and a stirring declamatory audibility.”
On winning the prize, Putuma said, “I never imagined that poetry would be part of my life in such a big way. I never imagined that it would bring so many amazing moments with it. Winning the Luschei Prize is definitely right up there with the best moments.”
The award comes with a cash prize of USD $1,000.