Kyle Okeke and Derek Ehiorobo Win Evaristo Prize for African Poetry

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The African Poetry Book Fund has announced the winners of the Evaristo Prize for African Poetry (formerly the Brunel International Prize for African Poetry). Judges Gabeba Baderoon, Tjawangwa Dema, and Mahtem Shiferraw selected two winners for this year’s prize: Derek Ehiorobo (Lagos, Nigeria) for And God Said, Kyle Okeke (Texas, U.S./Nigeria) for Butterflies

Chosen from amongst five short-listed finalists, Ehiorobo and Okeke will each receive a prize of $750.

The judges also chose one honourable mention: .CHISARAOKWU. (California, U.S./Igbo) for her poems.

The judges had high praises for the work of all the poets.

Of Ehiorobo’s work, they said:

“In these poems is an unguarded tenderness wielded so delicately and resonantly 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 centred 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.”

As for .CHISARAOKWU.’s work, the judges remarked:

“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.”

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 PraxisPoetry 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. He can be found on instagram @derekimagines, where he writes poetry for a small community of literary enthusiasts.

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

To support the African Poetry Book Fund’s work in promoting and celebrating African poetry, you may make a donation via the Nebraska Foundation.

Click here to read our previous article on the Evaristo Prize.

A huge congratulations to Derek, Kyle, and all the finalists!

Bongiwe T. Maphosa

Bongiwe T. Maphosa

Bongiwe Maphosa is a budding author with a passion for storytelling. With her thought-provoking narratives, she takes her readers on a literary adventure. Bongiwe's works on the human condition from a fresh perspective have earned her recognition and publications in the Avbob Poetry Anthology of 2019, The Writer's Club of South Africa 2021, and JAY Lit in 2021. She hopes to cement her place in the literary community.