Romeo Oriogun from Nigeria is the winner of the Brunel International African Poetry Prize 2017.
The Brunel International African Poetry Prize now in its fifth year is a major poetry prize is aimed at the development, celebration and promotion of poetry from Africa. It is open to African poets worldwide who have not yet published a full poetry collection with the winner going home with £3,000. Previous winners of the prize are Warsan Shire (Somalia) (2013), Liyou Libsekal (Ethiopia) (2014), Safia Elhillo (Sudan) & Nick Makoha (Uganda) (2015), and Gbenga Adesina (Nigeria) & Chekwube O. Danladi (Nigeria) (2016)
The judges were unanimous this year in their decision that among a shortlist of ten very cool new poets, selected from nearly 1,200 entries, Oriogun – who only begun writing three years ago – should receive the prize. They said: “Romeo Oriogun is a hugely talented, outstanding, and urgent new voice in African poetry. His poetry is wide ranging but at its heart are deeply passionate, shocking, imaginative, complex and ultimately beautiful explorations of masculinity, sexuality and desire in a country that does not recognise LGBT rights. We wish him all the best for the future.”
Oriogun lives and writes in Udi, a small town in Eastern Nigeria. His poems have been featured in Brittle Paper, African Writer, Expound, Praxis, and others. He is the author of Burnt Men, an electronic chapbook published by Praxis Magazine online. You can also read his poem Gay Boy Blues & Other Poems in the recently published Enkare Review.
In a recent interview, Oriogun explained that he entered the Brunel International African Poetry Prize because “in Africa there are very few spaces for queer writing, I thought it was a means of sharing my poems” and described reaching the shortlist as “a blessing and a surprise.”
In discussing hardships and threats in Nigeria he said: “Sometimes this is the price I pay for writing but it is better than keeping quiet. I know queer people may not be free to love openly in my lifetime but it is a journey and we are laying the stones for the future.