African Poetry Book Fund Announces Three Releases for 2014, Including Kofi Awoonor’s The Promise of Hope
The African Poetry Book Fund (APBF), based at the University of Nebraska, promotes the development and publication of the African poetry. To achieve this aim, it funds the publication of several new poetry titles each year.
A collection by Ghanaian poet Kofi Awonnor, who tragically lost his life in the siege on Westgate Mall in Nairobi in 2013, is the lead title of the books being released by APBF this year. The Promise of Hope: New and Selected Poems 1964-2013 was already in production at the time of Awoonor’s death and is edited by Kofi Anyidoho.
Each year APBF releases a collection by the winner of the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets, an award for African poets who have not yet published a book-length poetry collection, which is overseen by the fund. This year APBF will publish 2013 Sillerman Prize winner Clifton Gachagua’s Madman at Kilifi. 2014′s winner, The Kitchen Dweller’s Testimony by Ladan Osman, has just been announced.
This year also see the publication of the first of an annual APBF chapbook box set, Seven New Generation African Poets, featuring poetry by Osman, TJ Dema, Clifton Gachagua, Tsitsi Jaji, Nick Makoha, Warsan Shire and Len Verwey. The anthology is edited by Chris Abani and APBF Series Editor Kwame Dawes.
About the books
Ghanaian poet Kofi Awoonor’s The Promise of Hope: New and Selected Poems 1964-2013 (University of Nebraska Press) is the lead title of three new book releases by the African Poetry Book Fund, established last year at the University of Nebraska. The Promise of Hope, along with Kenyan poet Clifton Gachagua’s Madman at Kilifi (University of Nebraska Press) and the chapbook box set Seven New Generation African Poets (Slapering Hol Press), represent APBF’s ongoing effort to promote and advance the publishing of African poetry.
The Promise of Hope spans nearly fifty years of Awoonor’s poetry before his death during the Westgate Mall terrorist attacks in Nairobi, Kenya in September 2013. The collection, already in production at the time of Awoonor’s death, is edited by his friend and colleague Kofi Anyidoho.
Madman at Kilifi was the winner of the 2013 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets, APBF’s prize for African writers who have not yet published a book-length poetry collection. Both The Promise of Hope and Madman at Kilifi are published by the University of Nebraska Press, a key partner in APBF’s publishing endeavor. Seven New Generation African Poets is the first of APBF’s annual chapbook box set anthologies featuring poetry by emerging African poets, and includes works by TJ Dema, Clifton Gachagua, Tsitsi Jaji, Nick Makoha, Ladan Osman, Warsan Shire, and Len Verwey. The box set was made possible with assistance from Prairie Schooner and support from The Poetry Foundation as part of its Poets in the World series.
“These publications are exciting developments for African poetry,” said APBF Series Editor Kwame Dawes. “Admittedly these are just three new titles, but they represent a thrilling principle, a series devoted entirely to the publication of contemporary African poetry that celebrates the power and beauty of such poetry.”
The Promise of Hope and Madman at Kilifi are both available through the University of Nebraska Press website, http://www.nebraskapress.unl.edu, with Seven New Generation African Poets also available through the Slapering Hol Press website at http://www.writerscenter.org/SHP_bookstore.htm.
“We desperately want this series to succeed, and for better or worse sales have some place in these equations,” said Dawes. “Fortunately, we are selling the work of some brilliant and exciting voices. I encourage folks to preorder these books for their own pleasure and for the sake of this enterprise.”
APBF will honor Awoonor at this year’s Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference in Seattle with a major memorial reading with special guest Sika Awoonor, daughter of Awooner, and featuring a slate of major writers who will honor the poet’s memory. The memorial reading is hosted by APBF and Blue Flower Arts, and will take place on March 1 from 12 to 1:15 p.m. in Room 607 of the WA State Convention Center, Level 6.
In addition, APBF will also host an AWP panel, “New Generation African Women Poets,” on February 28 from 10:30 to 11:45 a.m. in Room 400 of the WA State Convention Center, Level 4, and a celebratory reception on February 27 from 7 to 8:15 p.m. in the Juniper Room at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel. The reception is open to the public.
The African Poetry Book Fund and its partners support the African Poetry Libraries Project and other opportunities for African poets. It oversees the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets with Prairie Schooner and partners with the Brunel University African Poetry Prize.
All three titles can be ordered through the University of Nebraska Press at http://www.nebraskapress.unl.edu. For more information about the African Poetry Book Fund, visit http://africanpoetrybf.unl.edu. Information about Prairie Schooner is available at http://prairieschooner.unl.edu.
The African Poetry Book Fund, based in Lincoln, Nebraska, promotes and advances the development and publication of the poetic arts through its book series, contests, workshops, seminars, and through its collaborations with publishers and other entities that share an interest in the poetic arts of Africa. Prairie Schooner, a national literary quarterly published with the support of the English Department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Nebraska Press, is home to the best fiction, poetry, essays, and reviews being published today by beginning, mid-career, and established writers.
About the authors
Kofi Awoonor (1935–2013) was a diplomat and professor of comparative literature at numerous universities, including the University of Ghana. He is the author of several volumes of poetry, including Night of My Blood; Ride Me, Memory; The House by the Sea; and The Latin American and Caribbean Notebook.
Clifton Gachagua lives in Nairobi, where he was born and raised. His poetry has appeared in Kwani? 06 and Saraba, and he recently finished work on a novel. He is also a scriptwriter and filmmaker, and is currently developing a French-Nigerian feature-length film.
TJ Dema is an Honorary Fellow in Writing of the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program, as well as Botswana’s representative to the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad’s Poetry Parnassus. Her poetry has appeared in Sampsonia Way, The Ofi Press, and The Hummingbird Review.
Tsitsi Jaji earned her Ph.D. in comparative literature from Cornell University, and her first book, Africa in Stereo: Music, Modernism and Pan-African Solidarity, is forthcoming from Oxford University Press. Her poetry has appeared in Bitter Oleander, Runes Review, InTensions, and the Center for Book Arts Broadside Poetry Series. She is originally from Zimbabwe.
Nick Makoha fled Uganda during the Idi Amin dictatorship. As a Spoke-Lab resident, he developed a one-man show, “My Father & Other Superheroes,” and his poem “Vista” was used as part of a video installation to promote the 2008 Turner prize. His poetry has appeared in the Staying Alive poetry trilogy and the anthology Ten: New Poets Spread the Word from Bloodaxe Press. He currently resides in London.
Ladan Osman was the winner of the 2014 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets. She has received fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center, Cave Canem Foundation, and the Michener Center for Writers. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in American Life in Poetry, Artful Dodge, Broadsided, Narrative Magazine, Prairie Schooner, RHINO, and Vinyl Poetry. She lives in Chicago.
Warsan Shire is a Kenyan-born Somali poet and writer based in London. Her début pamphlet, Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth, was published by flipped eye in 2011. Her poems have appeared in Wasafiri, Magma, and Poetry Review, and have been translated into Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese.
Len Verwey was born in Maputo, Mozambique. His poems have appeared New Contrast, New Coin, London Magazine, A Look Away, and Carapace. He works as an economist for an African democracy organization, and lives in Cape Town with his two daughters.
- Seven New Generation African Poets: A Chapbook boxed set by Ladan Osman, TJ Dema, Clifton Gachagua, Tsitsi Jaji, Nick Makoha, Warsan Shire, Len Verwey, edited by Chris Abani, Kwame Dawes
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- The Promise of Hope: New and Selected Poems, 1964-2013 by Kofi Awoonor, edited by Kofi Anyidoho
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- Madman at Kalifi by Clifton Gachagua
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