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Rustum Kozain Wins the Olive Schreiner Prize

This Carting LifeRustum KozainAlert! Poet Rustum Kozain has won the 2007 Olive Schreiner Prize for his collection of poems This Carting Life, published by Kwela Books and Snailpress.

According to the book’s official blurb, This Carting Life comprises “poems that span more than ten years of writing… As the title suggests, a recurring general theme in the volume is that of the personal, romantic and political losses attendant on a form of wandering.” The volume is Kozain’s first collection. In 2006, he won the Ingrid Jonker Prize for his work.

Kozain keeps a blog on BOOK SA, and a more substantial website called “Groundwork” at, which features, alongside much else, new work. (I recommend in particular that readers make themselves familiar with the long poem “Groundwork X”.)

The prize is awarded by the English Academy of Southern Africa and is worth R5000. The award judges, Kobus Moolman, Evelyn Cresswell and Khaya Gqibitole, had this to say of the winner:

Rustum Kozain’s writing is very dense and charged. It is difficult. And this is not a criticism. Rather, it challenges the reader to extend him or herself. His imagery and his use of poetic lines are of an extremely sophisticated nature. There is a sense in reading his work that one is reading a writer who is intensely aware of every single movement he makes, and of the effects that each of these movements will have. In my opinion, his writing ranks easily with the best that this country has produced for a long time.

For the full citation, including a list of the runners up, see below. Meanwhile, here is a video of Kozain reading “At the Feet of a Child”, a poem from This Carting Life:

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BOOK SA extends heartfelt congratulations to a poet who might rightfully be described as one of the defining writers of his generation.


Judges’ Citation – 2007 Olive Schreiner Prize

In total there were twenty-five entrants for the Olive Schreiner Prize, this year awarded for a collection of poetry published between 2004 and 2006.

After a lengthy period during which the adjudicators read and re-read all submissions, a short list of no more than ten titles was drawn up by each of us. Upon meeting, discussing and evaluating these, a combined list was drawn up of titles common to all of us. This list included the following [given here in the order that the books "placed" - see full citation]:

This Carting Life by Rustum Kozain
Night Crossing by Petra Muller
A hundred silences by Gabeba Baderoon
In a Ribbon of Rhythm by Lebogang Mashile

The collections of Arthur Attwell, Phillippa Yaa de Villiers, Sally-Ann Murray and Lebogang Lance Nawa were highly praised by the committee and deserved mention, but since none of these titles were held in common by any two of the judges, these collections therefore did not pass through to the next round.

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