The idea to interview the 2017 Brunel International African Poetry Prize shortlists, and to package the interviews in one collective ebook came from an instinctual interest in rendering new expansive spaces and understanding to the shortlisted poems, and the poets who created them. I wanted to highlight the power of poetry, in the way that it explores and illuminates narratives, experiences and worlds that exists within the poets as much as the reader. I wanted to engage the poets and possibly discover; Who is speaking? Who is living here? What hurts here? And what heals here?
In a span of seven days, I interviewed the ten shortlisted poets, wherein we discussed various topics: Richard’s endless reinvention, psychogeography and the power of African languages; Saddiq’s defiance to African stories gatekeepers, family tales and the insurmountable power of love; Yalie’s reclamation of her Sierra-Leone heritage, unbecoming invincible and the potentiality of sincerity to change the world; Nick’s take on Idi Amin’s regime and its impact on Uganda, the disregard to Black death and the importance of writing our African stories as Africans; Kechi’s reclamation to memory, nationalistic forced amnesia, and the road to understanding; Romeo’s violent and dark realities of Queer men in Nigeria, navigating religion and hatred, and the beauty of water; Leila’s perpetual longing, life as an Arab, Muslim woman post 9/11 and post Trump and love as a gift; Rasaq’s relentlessness, documentation of Boko Haram’s occurrences in North Nigeria, and the activating powers of awareness; Sahro’s power of crude language, navigating her sexuality in a homophobic environment and twenty seconds of bravery; Kayo’s writing beyond language, the lack of assimilation of immigrants and the multi-layers of selfhood.
Here, we learn that the poets are the custodians of our realities and histories. That there is a lot of ourselves in each other. That we live in many worlds; in poetry, in silences, and in each other. And the more initiatives like the Brunel International African Poetry Prize exists, the more Africa can speak and unspeak, occupy and unoccupy, learn and unlearn, remember and unremember, heal and heal herself.
– Gaamangwe Joy Mogami, Founding Editor, Africa in Dialogue
This is an important collection. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. The ideas contained in the interviews will live long in our minds. At Praxis, we’re happy to publish this. Enjoy!
-Jennifer Chinenye Emelife, Praxis Lead Correspondent
Download the interviews here: Conversations with Brunel Poetry Prize Shortlist