Juliane Okot Bitek Wins African Poetry Prize

Juliane Okot Bitek’s poetry collection “100 Days” published by the University of Alberta Press, 2016, has been named winner of the 2017 Glenna Luschei Prize of African Poetry.

The prize, administered by the African Poetry Book Fund, annually awards $1,000 to a book of poetry by an African writer published the previous year.

Judge of the 2017 Prize, John Keene, scholar and award-wining writer  observed that, “In 100 Days, poet Juliane Okot Bitek set out to memorialize the tragedy of the Rwandan genocide, but the witnessing force of these brief, incantatory poems ripples outward to figuratively encompass multiple histories of violence and brutality, including the terror her own family and countless others faced under Idi Amin’s regime in Uganda. The lyric beauty, intertextual depth, and metonymic power of Okot Bitek’s poetry underscores the capacities of of art and language to cast light into the darkest corners of our human experience, and bridge the gulfs that lie between us.”

Juliane Okot Bitek was born in Kenya to Ugandan parents.  A PhD student with the University of British Columbia’s Liu Institute for Global Issues in Vancouver, her work have been published widely online and in print in magazines. She has also been featured in Great Black North: Contemporary African Canadian Poetry and Revolving City: 51 Poems and the Stories Behind Them.

Director, African Poetry Book Fund, Kwame Dawes, said it is exciting to celebrate the brilliant poetry of Juliane Okot Bitek, “whose name reminds us of the rich legacy of African letters that she is extending in this beautiful collection.”

The Director noted that with the renewed support from Glenna Luschei, this prize would continue to appreciate the work of African poets as well as the efforts of the publishers who publish them.
Timothy Ogene’s Descent & Other Poems and Stephen Symons’s Questions for the Sea received honorable mentions.

The African Poetry Book Fund, which was established through the generosity of Laura and Robert F. X. Sillerman and in partnership with the literary journal Prairie Schooner, seeks to celebrate and cultivate the poetic arts of Africa.

The Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry, considered as the only pan-African book prize is being funded by literary philanthropist and poet Glenna Luschei to promote African poetry written in English or in translation by recognizing a significant book published each year by an African poet.

African Poetry Book Fund has survived its interest in promoting and advancing the development and publication of the poetic arts of Africa through its book series, contests, workshops, and seminars and through its collaborations with publishers, festivals, booking agents, colleges, universities, conferences and all other entities that share an interest in the poetic arts of Africa.


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