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Kobus Moolman wins the 2015 Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry

Kobus Moolman

A Book of RoomsAlert! Kobus Moolman has been announced as the winner of the 2015 Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry.

The Glenna Luschei Prize, a pan-African poetry prize worth $5 000 (about R84 000), is overseen by the African Poetry Book Fund, in partnership with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s literary journal Prairie Schooner. It was established to promote African poetry written in English or in translation and to recognise a significant book published each year by an African poet. This year’s judge was award-winning poet and scholar Gabeba Baderoon.

Baderoon says of reading A Book of Rooms, “Moolman’s poems in this collection are electric, visceral, brilliantly experimental, and profoundly moving.” In Moolman’s book each poem is named for and unfolds the world of a specific room: The Room of Spillage, The Room of Maybe, The Room of Green, and more. As Baderoon explains the sense of movement through the collection, “In this close reading of spaces, we trace walls, windows, curtains, corners, our attention caught by the cut beneath the door, illumination flaring from glints of memory…. Yet if his flesh is betrayed, and his heart breaks into silence and shame, the hole in his heart also opens into speech.

Kwame Dawes, African Poetry Book Fund director, says: “Every time we bring attention to the wonderful poetry being written by African poets today, we are enacting something quite important for African literary arts, and Moolman, whose poetry I have followed for a number of years, is a poet that more people should know. Our hope is that in some small way, this prize will aid in that larger effort.”

GumiguruNow The World Takes These BreathsMoolman beat finalists Togara Muzanenhamo’s Gumiguru (Zimbabwe, Carcanet Press) and Joan Metelerkamp’s Now the World Takes These Breaths (South Africa, Modjaji Books) to the award. Christine Coates’s Homegrown (Modjaji Books, 2014) also received an Honorable Mention.

Muzanenhamo was recently announced as a finalist for this year’s Artists In Residency (AIR) programme.

Moolman, a University of KwaZulu-Natal academic and playwright, was a finalist for the inaugural Glenna Luschei Prize back in 2014, for his 2013 collection Left Over. He is also the recipient of the Ingrid Jonker prize, the PANSA award, a South African Literary Award, the DALRO poetry prize and the 2013 2013 Sol Plaatje Europrean Union Award.

Moolman said he believes poets “write into and against and back to the work of each other – overtly or not.

“We write not in a vacuum, but on a continuum, where our works move along a scale of isolation and influence. A prize like the Glenna Luschei award is a valuable record of this community and this continuum.”

Of his own book, Moolman says, “The poems in A Book of Rooms are a radical departure for me. They are all part of one full book-length narrative. I have largely written short poems before, but this book is my first foray into both narrative poetry (poetry that tells one extended and sequential story) and into a book-length collection. The poems are also a brave/foolhardy attempt to shake up the distinction between truth (fact) and fiction, between autobiography and invention. Karl Knausgard called this Autobiographical Fiction. I think of it as a form of lying that tells a deeper truth.”

Congratulations to Moolman!

About the Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry:

This pan-African poetry prize, funded by literary philanthropist and poet Glenna Luschei, is the only one of its kind in the world. Established to promote African poetry written in English or in translation, it recognizes a significant book published each year by an African poet. Entries came from Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Nigeria and South Africa.

Each year, an internationally renowned poet judges the prize. Now in its second year, the number of entries has more than doubled, and the quality and diversity of books received provided the judge, South African poet Gabeba Baderoon, with a challenging yet enjoyable task.

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