06 October 2012

two new poetry prizes for 2012

Under the auspices of the African Poetry Book Fund there are two new poetry awards that have launched this year: the Brunel University African Poetry Prize & the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets.

The Brunel Prize is being coordinated by Bernardine Evaristo and requires the submission of 10 poems (no more, no less) in English (translations accepted) from an African poet -- defined as those "who were born in Africa, or who are nationals of an African country, or whose parents are African" -- who has not yet published a book length collection. Full details here. The deadline to submit (by email) is midnight (UK time) on November 30, 2012.

Submission requirements for the Sillerman Prize require a 50+ page long manuscript by a similarly defined "African poet". Unlike with the Brunel Prize, self-published authors who have "sold [their books] online, in stores, or at readings" are ineligible to submit. The submission deadline for the Sillerman Prize (online only) is November 15, 2012.

There is no cost to submit to either prize. The Sillerman Prize was launched with a $20 submission fee which seemed absolutely baffling considering the circumstances but, thankfully, within a few weeks of launch the APBF reconsidered and eliminated the fee.

These are wonderful opportunities to see your work published and, in both instances, for a rather substantial cash award. "Substantial" relative to the amount of money otherwise associated with this little beasty we refer to as "African poetry"...

But of even greater worth -- there is, after all, only one award given for each prize competition -- is the opportunity that preparing a manuscript affords poets to really engage with, reflect on, and edit their work. There is among many poets, it seems, a great urge to rush to "print" and publish, to see their work online, on a blog, on a website, pushed out through Facebook -- and, in many instances, to be congratulated for it.

Can't say I blame them. But...

The most satisfying time I have spent writing in recent years was when I was preparing for my first (and, yes, so far only) public reading. I carried sheaves of poems in my back pocket everywhere and would pull them out every free moment I had, re-read, make notes, scratch out words, lines, whole stanzas, scrawl replacement words, lines, whole stanzas... And the poems were all the better for the sustained attention. And I -- as poor a facsimile as I may be -- am a better poet for it as well. Unquestionably.

So... all you as yet unpublished (that is, maybe, "unbooked"??) "African poets" out there -- as defined above -- get to work!! Don't rush to submit, there's still plenty of time, but pull those pages together, stuff them in your pocket, your bag, your folder, your briefcase, and spend time with them: when you can, where you can. Savor, enjoy them, tear into them, rebuild them, and then submit them. Whether it's a book length manuscript, your ten best, or both, there is great opportunity for you not just for a prize but in the process.

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