Africa Poetry Book Fund

The African Poetry Book Fund at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln received a $343,750 grant from the Poetry Foundation to study poetry book distribution in Africa on July 13, 2022.

The African Poetry Book Distribution Project, led by Kwame Dawes, George W. Holmes University Professor of English, will improve the understanding of poetry book distribution — examining bookseller networks, international trade, literary venues and programming and more — on a continent made up of multiple nations. The three-year project began this summer.

The Poetry Foundation is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in American culture. It seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery, and encouraging new kinds of poetry through innovative literary prizes and programs.

Kwame Dawes by Andre Lambertson
Kwame Dawes by Andre Lambertson

“APBF’s (African Poetry Book Fund) core goal is to find ways to advance African poetry in the world, and one of the critical ways to do so effectively is to appreciate the complex and multifaceted ways in which poetry and the publishing of poetry takes place,” said Dawes, who is also the Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner. “Central to the state of poetry in the world is the business of book distribution, and this is particularly critical in a continent like Africa, made up of so many different nation states with quite distinctive trade, distribution and tariff laws, and just as many approaches to book distribution and sale, especially when it comes to poetry.

The African Poetry Book Distribution Project will help the fund define its role in building and sustaining long-term partnerships with existing African publishers and book distributors and ensure the availability of titles internationally. From its 2012 inception, the African Poetry Book Fund has been committed to developing a robust publishing agenda in the United States, and ensuring that the published work is accessible to readers throughout Africa.

The African Poetry Book Fund was first supported by the generosity of Laura and Robert F.X. Sillerman, and since has been awarded grants from the Ford Foundation and the Academy of American Poets. With this latest funding, the fund has topped more than $1 million in grants in the past year. This grant follows a $750,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in August 2021 to expand the African Poetry Digital Portal, an online project of the fund.