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African Poetry Book Fund Call for Entries for the 2015 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets

Madman at KalifiThe Kitchen-Dweller's Testimony

Alert! Submissions for the 2015 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets are open now, through to 1 December, 2015.

Every year Prairie Schooner‘s sister organisation, the African Poetry Book Fund, publishes the first book of an African poet. The inaugural Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets was awarded to Clifton Gachagua of Kenya for his book Madman at Kilifi. The 2014 prize went to Somalian-American poet Ladan Osman‘s The Kitchen Dweller’s Testimony. The 2015 winner was Ethiopian-American Mahtem Shiferraw, whose book Fuchsia is due out this coming spring from University of Nebraska Press and Amalion Press in Senegal. This trio of books represents the exciting range of new and dynamic African voices that are being heard thanks to the work of the African Poetry Book Fund.

If you are eligible for The Sillerman Prize (and if you know any other writers who are, please spread the word), send in your manuscript. The winner receives USD $1 000 (about R13 600) and publication through University of Nebraska Press.

The contest is judged by the African Poetry Book Fund editorial board, including Kwame Dawes, Chris Abani, Matthew Shenoda, John Keene, Gabeba Baderoon and Bernardine Evaristo.

Only poetry submissions in English can be considered. Translated work is acceptable, but a percentage of the prize will be awarded to the translator. Manuscripts should be at least 50 pages, and eligible writers may submit more than one manuscript. Finally, no entry fee is required to submit to the contest.

Read an interview with the most recent winner of the prize, Mahtem Shiferraw:

1. Describe the process of making the manuscript. How did you conceive of the poems together?

The poems were conceived in different times, each in its own way. I cannot say each poem was written with a collection in mind because my poems tend to demand their own individual space. However, once the poems were revised and edited and near completion, the collection came together as a whole.

2. How long did the process of making the manuscript take, from beginning to put it together to the moment you submitted and won the Sillerman?

The whole process of the manuscript took at least five years, most of which was spent trying to understand what each poem’s message truly was and revising it to accomplish its truest form.

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