Nii Ayikwei Parkes, Fred D’Aguiar, and Safiya Sinclair are three of the featured poets on the Poetry Book Society 2020 winter selections announced on September 16, 2020.

The Poetry Book Society was set up by T S Eliot and friends in 1953 ‘to propagate the art of poetry’. Since then they have been inspiring generations of poets and poetry fans with their selections and reviews.

One of the things that the UK-based society does is activities that bring the spotlight to its members. One of these is with the seasonal selections with poets highlighted as those to watch out for at a specific period. The most recent of the seasonal highlights is for winter and the poets selected are;

  • PBS Winter Choice: Fred D’Aguiar, Letters to America (Carcanet)
  • Recommendations: Safiya Sinclair, Cannibal (Picador)
  • Bill Manhire, Wow (Carcanet)
  • Daisy Lafarge, Life Without Air (Granta)
  • Nii Ayikwei Parkes, The Geez (Peepal Tree Press)
  • Special Commendation: Staying Human anthology (Bloodaxe)
  • Translation Choices: The Abduction by Maram al-Masri (Southword)
  • Translated by Theo Dorgan The Day Laid Bare by Kiwao Nomura (Isobar)
  • Translated by Eric Selland Wild Card Choice: Matthew Sweeney, Shadow of the Owl (Bloodaxe)

Here is a bit more about the three African/Black poets on the list;

Fred D’Aguiar

Fred D'Aguiar
Fred D’Aguiar

Fred D’Aguiar is one of the most well-known contemporary English writers of African descent. He is a novelist, playwright, poet, and essayist whose latest book, a poetry collection titled Continental Shelf, was a U.K. Poetry Book Society Choice and also shortlisted for the prestigious T.S. Elliott Prize for poetry in 2009. His publications include such critically acclaimed works as An English Sampler: Selected and New Poems, Dear Future, A Jamaican Airman Foresees His Death, and Feeding the Ghosts. His work has been produced for television, film, and radio, and has been translated into many languages.

Safiya Sinclair

Safiya Sinclair
Safiya Sinclair

Safiya Sinclair, born and raised in Montego Bay, Jamaica is the author of the memoir How to Say Babylon, forthcoming from Simon & Schuster. She is also the author of the poetry collection Cannibal, winner of a Whiting Writers’ Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Metcalf Award, the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Poetry, the Phillis Wheatley Book Award, and the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry. Cannibal was selected as one of the American Library Association’s Notable Books of the Year, and was a finalist for the PEN Center USA Literary Award, as well as being longlisted for the PEN Open Book Award and the Dylan Thomas Prize.

Sinclair’s other honours include a Pushcart Prize, a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, fellowships from the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, the Elizabeth George Foundation, Yaddo, MacDowell, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the Fine Arts Work Centre in Provincetown. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, The Nation, Poetry, Kenyon Review, the Oxford American, and elsewhere.

Nii Ayikwei Parkes

Nii Ayikwei Parkes Photo/Elikem Akpalu
Nii Ayikwei Parkes Photo/Elikem Akpalu

Nii Ayikwei Parkes is a writer of poetry, prose, and articles, and has published 3 poetry chapbooks: eyes of a boy, lips of a man (1999); M is for Madrigal (2004), a selection of seven jazz poems; and shorter (2005), published to raise money for a writers’ fund in Ghana.

He is also the Senior Editor at flipped eye publishing, and a contributor to many literary magazines and journals, including Wasafiri, Poetry News, The New Writer, Storyteller Magazine, The Liberal, Mechanics Institute Review, and Sable. Nii co-edited the short story anthologies, Tell Tales: Volume 1 (2004), with Courttia Newland; and x-24: unclassified (2007), with Tash Aw.

An experienced performer of his work he has appeared all over the world, including at NuYorican, New York; The Royal Festival Hall, London; and Java, Paris, and often leads writing and performance workshops. In 2002, he completed a six-week tour of the US, and he runs the African Writers’ Evening series at the Poetry Cafe, in Covent Garden, London. He has been poet in residence at the Poetry Cafe, associate writer in residence for BBC Radio 3, and writer in residence at California State University in 2007. His poem, ‘Tin Roof’, was selected for the ‘Poems on the Underground’ initiative.

His first novel, Tail of the Blue Bird (2009), was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Eurasia Region, Best First Book). In the same year, a short story, ‘Socks Ball’, was highly commended in the Caine Prize for African Writing and he became Online Writer in Residence for Booktrust.