Othuke Umukoro was announced the winner of the Brunel International African Poetry Prize 2021 today, May 11, 2021.
The Brunel International African Poetry Prize, worth £3,000, was started in 2012 to revitalise African poetry and encourage a new generation of poets to get an international platform. It was founded by Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo who is also Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University London, UK. Previous winners have been Warsan Shire (2013), Liyou Libsekal (2014), Safia Elhillo and Nick Makoha (2015), Gbenga Adesina and Chekwube O. Danladi (2016), Romeo Oriogun (2017), Momtaza Mehri, Theresa Lola, and Hiwot Adilow (2018), Nadra Mabrouk and Jamila Osman (2019), and Rabha Ashry (2020).
For 2021, the judging panel chaired by Karen McCarthy Woolf features Rustum Kozain (South Africa) and Makhosazana Xaba (South Africa). This panel has announced the shortlist on March 31, before today’s revelation of Othuke Umukoro as winner was made.
The judges were unanimous in their decision and had this to say about the winning poems: ‘The language is lush, mesmeric at times and the balance between lyric and narrative deftly handled. There is a technical competence too. These are unafraid, thoughtful pieces — playful, yet serious, making us look at love, life, mortality afresh. The elegiac A Mountain Cracks Before Translation — mourning the suicide of a brother found hanging — heartbreaking, but never gratuitous in its detail. A complex poet, with the formal skills to match the weight of the subjects he takes on, whether it’s sexuality and the family dynamic, HIV, or nature, ecology and politics.’
Reacting to the announcement Othuke Tweeted, “I’ve been teaching all day & just saw the mail now but I’m wild & elated to announce to you that I’ve just been named the winner of the 2021 Brunel International African Poetry Prize. My deepest gratitude goes to the judges—Karen McCarthy Woolf (Chair), Rustum Kozain, & Makhosazana Xaba—for their precious time & belief in my work. I’m also super grateful to the awesome Bernardine Evaristo, the amazing founder of this prize, whose generosity is priceless. To my brilliant colleagues who made the shortlist, I celebrate you & your powerful works: it’s an honour to have shared the stage with you. I dedicate this award to my beautiful mother, an immortal light on my path. Thank you, Jesus!”