Derek Ehioboro, Kyle Okeke Win Evaristo Prize for African Poetry

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The Evaristo Prize for African Poetry has announced the winners for the 2023 edition of the prize.

The selected winners, from a shortlist of five, are Derek Ehioboro for his poem “And God Said,” and Kyle Okeke for his poem “Butterflies.” As joint winners, both poets will share the awarded amount of $1,500.

Along with the announcement, this year’s judges, Gabeba Baderoon, Tjawangwa Dema, and Mahtem Shiferraw shared their thoughts on the winning poets and their works.

Of Ehiorobo’s work, they shared that there is an “unguarded tenderness wielded so delicately and resonantly,” in his poems, highlighting “that the speaker becomes a point of translation whom we sometimes even forget exists. This delicacy of touch courses through line after line and contains the grief–within, within.”

Regarding Okeke’s poems, the judges noted: “There is an exquisite sense of expansiveness and restraint in these poems. So much is carried here in language that is centered and succinct. Marked by images of astonishing beauty and power, ‘Butterflies’ crafts an intimate and undaunted poetic voice. This collection of ten poems is a profoundly moving poetic achievement.”

Kyle Okeke is a writer from Sugar Land, Texas, whose work appears or is forthcoming in Glass: a Journal of Poetry, Foglifter, and POETRY, among others. He is pursuing an MFA in creative writing at UT Austin’s New Writers Project. 

Ehiorobo Derek is a writer, poet, and spoken word artist. His work has been published in Praxis, Poetry column-NND, Liquid Imaginations, the How to fall in love anthology published by Inkspired Nigeria, and the How to fall in love again anthology, also published by Inkspired Nigeria. You can find him on instagram @derekimagines, where he writes poetry for a small community of literary enthusiasts.

The judges also chose one honorable mention: CHISARAOKWU. (California, U.S./Igbo) for her poems; providing this comment about her work: “There is so much knowing in these poems, so much beauty, and the mastery of language and imagery is almost uncanny. The narratives are interwoven into each other, braiding upon braiding, new splitting of the same stories, with writing that is tactile, evocative and beautifully sensorial.”

You can read the winning poems here: Kyle Okoke’s page and Ehiorobo Derek’s page.

The Evaristo Prize for African Poetry is an annual prize of USD $1,500 awarded to ten poems written by an African poet.

Established first as the Brunel International African Poetry Prize (BIAPP) in 2012 by British writer Bernardine Evaristo, who founded and managed the prize for ten years, the Evaristo Prize was renamed in 2022 and is now administered by the African Poetry Book Fund.  

President of the UK’s Royal Society of Literature and a celebrated writer, Bernardine Evaristo is an APBF Editorial Board Member; Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University London; and the author of ten books of fiction, poetry, essays, drama, criticism, and journalism. 

The Evaristo Prize for African Poetry accepts submissions from October 1st till November 1st of every year.

To learn more about the prize, visit the APBF’s contests page

Lake Adedamola is a poet, writer, and editor with Nantygreens, who's worked with several other literary blogs including Brittle Paper. He has, since 2018, served in various capacities on the Lagos International Poetry Festival, LIPFest, team.

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