Warsan Shire is Kenyan-born Somali poet and writer raised in London, UK. Born in 1988, she has read her work all over Britain as well as in South Africa, Italy, Germany, Canada, North America and Kenya. Her poetry pamphlet, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth, was published in 2011 by flipped eye. Her poems have appeared in Wasafiri, Magma and Poetry Review and in the Salt Book of Younger Poets (Salt, 2011). They have been translated into Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. Since winning the first Prize, Warsan was made the first Poet Laureate of London. She has published a second chapbook, Our Men Do Not Belong To Us with the African Poetry Book Fund (APBF) New Generation African Poets Box Set Series, and a third chapbook, Her Blue Body, with Spread the Word. She also collaborated with Beyonce on her 2016 album, Lemonade, which featured Warsan’s poetry throughout. In 2017 she was published as a Penguin Modern Poet with Malika Booker and Sharon Olds in Your Family, Your Body (Penguin Modern Poets 3).
(Updated March 2018)
Liyou Mesfin Libsekal was born in 1990 in Ethiopia and grew up traveling with her family, spending the majority of her childhood in different parts of East Africa. She earned a BA in Anthropology from George Washington University in 2012, with a minor in international affairs and a concentration in international development. After spending a short time in Vietnam, Liyou returned to Ethiopia and now lives in Addis Ababa. Since January 2013 she has written on culture and the changing environment of her rapidly developing country for the Ethiopian Business Review. Since winning the Prize, she has published her first chapbook, Bearing Heavy Things (2015) with the APBF’s New Generation African Poets Box Set Series. Her work has also appeared in Elsewhere Lit, Expound Magazine, Cordite Poetry Review, and other publications.
2 Winners 2015
Safia Elhillo & Nick Makoha
(Updated March 2018)
Safia Elhillo is the author of The January Children (University of Nebraska Press, 2017). Sudanese by way of Washington, DC, she received an MFA in poetry at the New School. Safia is a Pushcart Prize nominee, receiving a special mention for the 2016 Pushcart Prize and won the 2016 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets. She has received fellowships from Cave Canem, The Conversation, and Crescendo Literary x The Poetry Foundation’s Poetry Incubator. Safia’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in POETRY Magazine, Callaloo, and The Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-day series, among others, and in anthologies including The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop and Women of Resistance: Poems for a New Feminism. Her work has been translated into Arabic, Japanese, Estonian, Portuguese, and Greek. With Fatimah Asghar. She is co-editor of the anthology Halal If You Hear Me (Haymarket Books, 2019).
(Updated March 2018) Nick Makoha was born in Uganda but fled the Idi Amin dictatorship. He subsequently lived in Kenya and Saudi Arabia, and currently lives in London. His first pamphlet was The Lost Collection of an Invisible Man (flippedeye 2005). His second pamphlet, Resurrection Man (Jai-Alai Books) won the Toi Derricote & Cornelius Eady Chapbook Prize 2016. His third pamphlet, The Second Republic, was published in the APBF’s Seven New Generation African Poets series. His first poetry book, Kingdom of Gravity (Peepal Tree Press, 2017) was shortlisted for the Felix Fennis Prize for Best First Collection 2017 and was a Guardian Best Book of 2017. His poetry has appeared in the New York Times, Poetry Review, Rialto, Triquarterly Review, Boston Review, Callaloo, and Wasafiri. Nick’s one man show, My Father & Other Superheroes, recently toured the UK, and he has also toured to the US, Finland, Czech Republic and the Netherlands. www.nickmakoha.com
2 Winners 2016
Gbenga Adesina & Chekwube Danladi
(Updated March 2018)
Gbenga Adesina is a Nigerian born poet and essayist. His poem, “How To Paint A Girl” was selected by Mathew Zapruder for its “clarity of observation and empathetic insight into the suffering of another” for the New York Times in July 2016. He was a 2017 Emerging Poet Fellow at the Poets House, New York. He has received other fellowships and scholarships from the Norman Mailer Center, the Fine Arts Work Centre, Provincetown, The Open Society Foundation in Goree Island, off the coast of Senegal and Callaloo at Oxford. His poetry chapbook, Painter of Water, was published by APBF and Akashic Books. His poems and interviews have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Washington Square Review, Brittle Paper,Vinyl, Ploughshares and elsewhere. His poetry manuscript, Holy Bodies, was a finalist for the 2017 Sillerman First Book Prize. He is currently a StarWorks Poetry Fellow at New York University where he’ll also be teaching undergraduate poetry. Follow him @Gbadenaija.
(Updated March 2018)
Chekwube O. Danladi is Nigerian. She has received fellowships and support from Callaloo, Kimbilio, The Vermont Studio Center, and Hedgebrook. Her work can be found in Black Warrior Review, West Branch, Apogee, CutBank, Callaloo, and elsewhere. She was raised in Lagos, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Maryland. Her writing prioritizes themes of teleological displacement, navigations and interrogations of gender and sexuality, and the necessary resilience of African and Afro-diasporic communities. Her first chapbook, Take Me Back was published by APBF/ Akashic Books in 2017, and she is currently working on a novel about queers living in Abuja, Nigeria.
Romeo Oriogun lives and writes Nigeria. His poems, which mostly deal with what it means to live as a queer man in Nigeria, have been featured in Brittle Paper, African Writer, Expound, Praxis, and others. He is the author of Burnt Men, an electronic chapbook published by Praxis Magazine Online.
3 Winners 2018
Hiwot Adilow is an Ethiopian-American poet and singer from Philadelphia. Born in 1995, she is a member of the First Wave Hip Hop and Urban Arts Learning Community at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her poetry appears or is forthcoming in Nepantla, Winter Tangerine, Vinyl Poetry and Prose, and elsewhere and has been anthologized in The BreakBeats Poets Vol 2.0: Black Girl Magic (Haymarket Books, 2018). Hiwot is author of the chapbook In The House of My Father (Two Sylvias Press, 2018).
Theresa LolaTheresa Lola is a Nigerian British poet born in 1994. She was shortlisted for the Bridport Poetry Prize 2017, the London Magazine Poetry Prize 2016 and she won the Hammer and Tongue National Poetry Slam in 2017. Theresa is an alumna of the Barbican Young Poets programme. She was awarded an Arts Council/British Council International Development Grant to run poetry workshops at the Lagos International Poetry Festival in Nigeria in 2017. Theresa is part of SXWKS creative collective and Octavia Women of Colour collective which is resident at the Southbank Centre in London. She is currently working on her debut full length poetry collection.
Momtaza MehriMomtaza Mehri is a poet and essayist. Born in 1994, her work has been featured in DAZED, Buzzfeed, Vogue, BBC Radio 4, Poetry Society of America, Mask Magazine and Poetry Review. She is a Complete Works Fellow, winner of the 2017 Outspoken Page Poetry Prize and she took third prize in the National Poetry Competition 2018. Her chapbook sugah lump prayer was published by Akashic books/ African Poetry Book Fund in 2017. She also edits Diaspora Drama, a digital platform showcasing international immigrant art. She became the Young People’s Laureate of London in 2018.
Two Winners – 2019
Nadra Mabrouk is a poet from Cairo, Egypt. She is the author of the chapbook, “How Things Tasted When We Were Young,” published by Finishing Line Press in 2016. Her work has appeared/ is forthcoming in POETRY, RHINO, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, among others. Her work is also forthcoming in The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 3: Halal If You Hear Me (Haymarket Books, 2019). She has been recognized as a finalist for the 2017 Brett Elizabeth Jenkins Poetry Prize. Currently, she is a content intern for The Academy of American Poets, and is an MFA candidate at New York University, where she is a Goldwater fellow.
Rabha Ashry is Egyptian, from Abu Dhabi, and based in Chicago. A New York University Abu Dhabi graduate, she has recently completed an MFA in Writing at School of the Arts Institute of Chicago.