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Prairie Schooner News

Tsitsi Jaji to Give Talk and Reading at UNL

Tsitsi Jaji

Poet and scholar Tsitsi Jaji will give two public talks at events co-sponsored by Prairie Schooner, UNL’s international literary journal, on Thursday afternoon, February 26.

The first event, a lecture entitled “Africa in Stereo: Listening for Pan-African Futures,” will take place from 3:30 to 5:00 in the Bailey Library. The second, a poetry reading, will follow from 7:00 to 8:00, in Room A of the Regency Suite in the Nebraska Union. Jaji’s poetry has been featured in Prairie Schooner, and her chapbook Carnaval appears in the Seven New Generation African Poets box set, published as part of the African Poetry Book Series by Slapering Hol Press in association with Prairie Schooner and the African Poetry Book Fund (2014). Jaji was also recently named a finalist in the African Poetry Book Fund’s Sillerman First Book Prize.

“The African and African-American Studies program unanimously chose to invite Jaji to UNL. Jaji's research on African-American music in Africa represents the best of interdisciplinary global and African diaspora studies,” Alice Kang, Assistant Professor of Political Science, said. “On top of that, Jaji is a wonderful poet. We're thrilled that Jaji will be giving both an academic talk and a poetry reading. There will be something for everyone.”

Tsitsi Jaji was born and raised in Zimbabwe. Currently an assistant professor of English and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, Jaji’s work has appeared in Poetry International, Prairie Schooner, Bitter Oleander, Munyori, Runes, and elsewhere. She is also the author of Africa in Stereo: Modernism, Music and Pan-African Solidarity (Oxford University Press, 2014), a scholarly monograph on which her lecture is based.

In addition to Prairie Schooner, event sponsors include the African Poetry Book Fund, the African-American and African Studies Program, the Institute for Ethnic Studies, the English Department, the History Department, the Political Science Department, the Sociology Department, the UNL Faculty Senate Convocations Committee, and the Women’s and Gender Studies Program. Both events are free and open to the public.

For more details about this event, visit http://www.prairieschooner.unl.edu

African Poetry Book Fund Names Mahtem Shiferraw Winner of 2015 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets

The African Poetry Book Fund and Prairie Schooner are pleased to announce that Ethiopian-American poet Mahtem Shiferraw’s has been named the winner of the 2015 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets for her manuscript, Fuchsia. Shiferraw will receive a $1000 cash award and publication of her manuscript as part of the African Poetry Book Series by the University of Nebraska Press and Amalion Press in Senegal, to be released in the spring of 2016. The Sillerman Prize is sponsored by philanthropists and funders of the African Poetry Book Fund, Laura and Robert Sillerman, whose annual bequest has continued to fund the work of the African Poetry Book Fund in its publishing and promotion of African poetry.

2015 Sillerman Prize Winner Mahtem Shiferraw

Of winning the prize, Shiferraw says, "I am extremely humbled and honored to have won the Sillerman; the fact that my poems will finally have a life of their own after so much wandering is beyond anything I could ever have hoped for."

Kwame Dawes, Director of the African Poetry Book Fund and Prairie Schooner Editor-in-Chief, says, “Every year, we wonder where the new and dynamic voices will emerge from to grab our attention, and this year has been no different.  Shiferraw’s verse is elegantly formed work that explores with sophistication the complexities of exile and return, of memory and hope in the future through sharply-honed images, and through a vulnerability that is haunting and disarming.” 

Mahtem Shiferraw is a poet, visual artist, and cultural activist. She grew up in Eritrea & Ethiopia. Her poems have been published in the 2River View, Blast Furnace Literary Journal, Blood Lotus Literary Journal, Cactus Heart Press, Mad Hatters Review, Mandala Literary Journal, and Blackberry Magazine and are forthcoming from Diverse Voices Quarterly and Callaloo Literary Journal. Her prose appears in the Bitter Oleander Press and Long Story, Short Journal. She was nominated for Best of the Net in 2013 and her short story “The River” was a finalist at Glimmer Train Press Open Fiction. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College. More information is available at Mahtem's website: http://mahtemshiferraw.com/.

The title poem of Shiferraw’s collection, “What is Fuschia?” is excerpted below:

And then, you ask, what is fuchsia – and there’s a faint smile, a
sudden remembrance, an afterthought in hiding, forgotten smells
of wild flowers and days spent in hiding, in disarray. And mulberry
daisies carried by phosphorescent winds into the warm skin of sleeping
bodies; moments spent between here and there, pockets of emptiness –
without sound, without reckoning.

Shiferraw is the third poet to win the annual Sillerman Prize after Clifton Gachagua of Kenya for his book, Madman at Kilifi, and Somalian-American poet Ladan Osman, whose winning book, The Kitchen Dweller’s Testimony, will be released in April 2015. The winner of the annual Sillerman Prize is selected by the six-person APBF editorial team: Chris Abani, Matthew Shenoda, Bernardine Evaristo, John Keene, Gabeba Baderoon and Kwame Dawes.

The finalist for this annual prize was the Zimbabwe-born poet Tsitsi Jaji, for her manuscript, Beating the Graves. The judges also made special mention of the Nigerian poet D.M. Aderibigbe for his manuscript, My Mother’s Song and Other Similar Songs I Learnt.

More information about the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets and other APBF initiatives is available on the APBF website: http://africanpoetrybf.unl.edu/. Or, stay connected on Twitter or Facebook. You can also find more about Prairie Schooner here at http://prairieschooner.unl.edu/.

Bernardine Evaristo to Give Reading at UNL

Bernardine Evaristo

Award-winning British writer Bernardine Evaristo will give a public reading of her work on November 7 at an event co-sponsored by Prairie Schooner, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s international literary journal.

The event will take place at the Van Brunt Visitors Center from 5:00 to 7:30 and is free and open to the public. Evaristo will sign copies of her books after the reading, during a catered reception to follow.  The event is presented through a partnership between the department of English and Prairie Schooner, along with other UNL sponsors including the Department of History, the Institute for Ethnic Studies, the College of Arts and Sciences, and Women’s and Gender Studies. We’re thrilled that we can bring such a high-profile, prestigious author to UNL,” Marco Abel, chair of the English department, said. “That we’re able to give our community the opportunity to meet Evaristo in person is the direct result of the collaborative spirit at UNL and is testimony to the generosity of the various units whose support was instrumental for our ability to arrange this event.”

Evaristo is the author of seven books, most recently Mr. Loverman (Akashic Books, 2014). Mr. Loverman received a positive review in The New York Times, where Ellery Washington notes “Evaristo’s confident control of the language” and “vibrant use of humor, rhythm, and poetry.” Evaristo writes in many genres, including prose novels, verse novels, scripts, and non-fiction—often mixing elements of each within the same book. She is also an editor, literary critic, playwright, and essayist.

Evaristo is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and the recipient of an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honors List in 2009. She has won the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize, EMMA Best Book Award, Big Red Read Award, Orange Youth Panel Award, NESTA Fellowship Award and the Arts Council of England Writers’ Award in 2000. She is the founder and director of the Brunel University African Poetry Prize. She also serves on the Editorial Board of the African Poetry Book Fund, based at the University of Nebraska.

To learn more about Evaristo, her books, and her most recent activities, visit her website, http://www.bevaristo.com. To learn more about Prairie Schooner, visit http://www.prairieschooner.unl.edu

Glenna Luschei to Launch New Book at Quilt Museum

Glenna Luschei

Poet and literary philanthropist Glenna Luschei will launch her new book of poetry, The Sky Is Shooting Blue Arrows (University of New Mexico Press) at an event hosted by Prairie Schooner, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s international literary journal.

The event will take place on October 27 at 7:00 p.m. at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum and is free and open to the public. The reception will celebrate the publication of The Sky Is Shooting Blue Arrows. Luschei will read from her new book and sign copies (available to purchase courtesy of the University of Nebraska bookstore) afterward.

“Glenna Luschei has for over fifteen years now been an ardent and very loyal, dedicated alumna and benefactor for her alma mater, the University of Nebraska,” says Susan Norby, Senior Director of Development at the University of Nebraska Foundation. “She has demonstrated visionary charitable support, particularly for literature and poetry, and the university is forever indebted to her and inspired by her.”

Luschei has written over twenty-five books, ranging from books of poetry to artist books and translations. She is also the founder and publisher of Solo Press, which publishes the poetry journals Café Solo, Solo, Solo Café, and Solo Novo. She is the recipient of a National Endowments for the Arts Fellowship, a D.H. Lawrence Fellowship in New Mexico, and an Honorary Doctorate of Literature from St. Andrew’s Presbyterian College in Laurinburg, North Carolina. In 2000, she was named Poet Laureate of San Luis Obispo City and County. She served as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts for four years. She is also a UNL alum.

“Glenna Luschei is very special to this university and especially to Prairie Schooner and the English department.  Frankly, it is thanks to her generosity and philanthropy that Prairie Schooner has been able to advance with confidence for the past decade or so through her generous gift to the journal,” says Kwame Dawes, the magazine’s Glenna Luschei Editor-in-Chief.  “She gives to the university, and she has been a great example of giving for years and years, even when she herself was working hard to make ends meet.  She recently donated funds to establish the Glenna Luschei African Poetry Book Prize, and her support and enthusiasm make her a very special friend of ours.  On top of all that, she is a brilliant poet, and her new book is one we celebrate for its insight, humanity, and craft.”

In 2001, Luschei endowed Prairie Schooner in perpetuity through the University of Nebraska Foundation. She also supports a number of Prairie Schooner’s activities, including the Glenna Luschei Prairie Schooner Awards, and, in partnership with the African Poetry Book Fund, the Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry.

Luschei’s most recent books include Leaving It All Behind (Presa Press, 2011), Witch Dance (Presa Press, 2010), and Salt Lick (West End Press, 2009). Among her artist books is Enigmas, a translation of poems by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz.

For more details about this event, visit http://prairieschooner.unl.edu.

2014 Summer Nonfiction Contest Winner Announced

Aurvi Sharma

Prairie Schooner is pleased to announce that Aurvi Sharma is the winner of the 2014 Summer Creative Nonfiction Contest, for her essay “Eleven Stories of Water and Stone.” She will receive $250 and publication in the Spring 2015 issue of Prairie Schooner.

Aurvi Sharma’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Fourth Genre, Everyday Genius and Remedy. In 2012, she was awarded the Sarai Non-Fiction Fellowship, during which she travelled to riverside ruins across north India. Sharma was the recipient of the 2014 Wasafiri New Writing Prize (“Life Writing”). She lives in New York.

Judith Ortiz Cofer, the judge of this year’s prize, said of Sharma’s essay, “This essay is best described in the author’s own phrase: ‘trying to hold water in a fist.’ Each of the sections is a powerfully focused revelation of how the most basic of elements, the basis of survival—water—determines the life in an Indian community. But it is not mere social history; it is also about how individual lives and relationships are affected by either the presence of water or its scarcity. It is a poem and a history lesson."

Emily Geminder’s essay “Coming To: A Lexicology of Fainting” is the runner-up of this year’s contest. Geminder is a Durwood Fellow at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She has worked as a journalist and editor in New York and Phnom Penh. Her writing has appeared in the New York Observer, the Cambodia Daily, and elsewhere.

Emiliy Geminder

Last year’s winner was Melissa Febos, whose essay “Call My Name” appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of Prairie Schooner. To learn more about Prairie Schooner, the latest issues, and how to subscribe, visit http://prairieschooner.unl.edu.

Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets - Submissions Open September 15

Starting September 15, the African Poetry Book Fund is accepting submissions for the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets. There is no fee to enter, and winners receive $1,000 US and publication through the University of Nebraska Press and Amalion Press in Senegal. The contest is open to African writers who have not yet published a book-length poetry collection. (An African writer is taken as someone who was born in Africa, who is a national or resident of an African country, or whose parents are African.) Click here for full contest details and to enter your manuscript starting September 15.

Past winners of the Sillerman First Book Prize include 2014 winner Ladan Osman (pictured below) and 2013 winner Clifton Gachagua, whose collection Madman at Kilifi (above) was released as part of this year's African Poetry Book series.


FUSION 9 - Libations, With Poems, Art, and Essays from Ghana

Just as a libation can be poured using various potable liquids and mixtures, so this collection of poems goes to serve one purpose. The collection is in itself, a libation.

Libations is the theme of our latest FUSION, a collaboration with Ghana and the ninth edition of our FUSION series. Each FUSION features poems from both the Prairie Schooner archives and a different country around the world, along with essays and visual art all centered on a different theme. (Check out past FUSIONs with Hong Kong, Iran, Australia, and others here.)

FUSION 9 with Ghana features work by poets L.S. Mensah, Dannabang Kuwabong, Ellen Gilchrist, and Arthur Smith, and visual artists Bernard Akoi-Jackson and Ray Taddeucci. The screenshot above comes from Akoi-Jackson's 2012 video, The Cleansing.

APBF to Open Five African Poetry Libraries in September

The African Poetry Book Fund and Prairie Schooner are launching five poetry reading libraries in the Gambia, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda scheduled to open this September. Each library will house contemporary poetry books and journals available to poets and lovers of poetry in these five countries and beyond. Each library contains room for over 1,500 titles, offers resources for those interested in publishing their poems, and will serve as a hub for poets to meet and collaborate while remaining open to all.

“Too many poets working in Africa today have limited access to contemporary poetry,” said APBF Series Editor Kwame Dawes, “partly because of poor distribution by international publishers within Africa and partly because of the cost of books. We felt it would be a great idea to establish small poetry libraries in as many places as possible.”

All five libraries have been established through partnerships with writing organizations, arts organizations, existing libraries, and influential individuals in the arts from each of the five launch countries, and all have received start-up donations of books collected and sent to them by the APBF. Some of the initial mailing—just over four hundred books and journals to each site—consists of poetry collections donated by select literary journals from across the country, with a focus on new authors and contemporary collections from around the world.

Sites for the new poetry libraries include the Gaborone Public Library (pictured above) in Gaborone, Botswana, while the Uganda poetry library in Kampala (pictured below) has been made possible by the Ugandan Arts Trust.

More information about the African Poetry Library Initiative can be found on the APBF Poetry Library website.

Summer 2014 Issue Now Available

The Summer 2014 issue of Prairie Schooner, with poetry and prose by Robert Gibb, Jenine Capó Crucet, Floyd Skloot, Jesse Lee Kercheval, and others, is now available and has been mailed out to subscribers. Click here to see samples from the current issue and for a full list of contributors, or click here to subscribe.

This issue's cover features Zacatecas 1, an archival pigment print photograph by visual artist Francisco Soutou, whose work has been exhibited in Venezuela, Egypt, Japan, Russia, and elsewhere around the world. More of Soutou's photos, paintings, and prints are available on his website, http://www.franciscosouto.com.

Summer Creative Nonfiction Contest - Deadline August 1

This is the final week to submit to Prairie Schooner’s annual Summer Creative Nonfiction contest, which is accepting entries until August 1, 2014. Winners receive $250 and publication in the Spring 2015 issue. The entry fee is only $18.00 US, which includes a one-year subscription to the print journal—a $10 savings off the regular rate! Writers may submit multiple entries, but must pay a separate fee for each submission.

We are only considering electronic submissions for our Summer Creative Nonfiction Contest. Click here for full guidelines and to submit via Submittable.

Last year’s contest winner was Melissa Febos (pictured above) for her essay “Call My Name,” appearing in our Spring 2014 issue. Melissa also sat down for an interview with Assistant Nonfiction Editor Sarah Fawn Montgomery, which you can read on the Prairie Schooner blog.