Dawes Announces African Poetry Book Fund

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Kwame Dawes, Guggenheim Fellow and winner of the 2011 Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award, is excited to announce the establishment of the African Poetry Book Series. Beginning in January 2014, the imprint will publish four new titles by African poets each year. In addition the series will publish every few years an anthology representing African regions, themes, and ideas. Of the four books published annually, one will be a winner of the Sillerman African Poetry First Book Prize, and another will be a new and selected volume by a major African poet. The winner of the prize will also receive a $1000 cash prize and publication with the University of Nebraska Press and Amalion Press in Senegal.

Ghanaian poet, Kofi Awoonor, has agreed to be the first major African poet to be part of the Series. His New and Selected poems with an introduction by fellow poet and scholar, Kofi Anyidoho will be published in 2014 by the African Poetry Book Series.

The Series has been made possible through seed funding from philanthropists, Laura and Robert F. X. Sillerman, whose generous contributions have facilitated the establishment of the African Poetry Book Fund. Mr. and Mrs. Sillerman have also welcomed the use of their name for the First Book Prize for African poets, the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets, which will be part of the Series.

The African Poetry Book Series will be the major feature of the work of the African Poetry Book Fund, established this year under Dawes’ leadership through the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Confirmed members of the Foundations Advisory Board include Laura Sillerman, Elizabeth Alexander, Sulaiman Adebowale, Russell Goings, Peter Rorvik, Ellah Allfrey, and Glenna Luschei.

Under the auspices of the fund, one of its key facets will be the establishment of an additional prize for poetry, the Brunel University African Poetry Prize awarded for a selection of poems by an African poet. Spearheaded by poet and novelist, Bernardine Evaristo, the Brunel University African Poetry Prize will offer a cash award for the winning entries and publication in key international literary journals. Evaristo will also serve on the Editorial Board of the Series.

A collaborative venture, the African Poetry Book Fund will oversee the publication of the series which will be co-published by the University of Nebraska Press in the US and Amalion Press in Senegal, led by publisher, Sulaiman Adebowale. Prairie Schooner will be a key partner in this project offering administrative support and the management of the annual First Book Prize. Open Road Media, a dynamic digital publisher and multimedia company led by publishing powerhouse, Jane Friedman, will be handling the digital and e-book side of the African Poetry Book Series. Finally, Blue Flower Arts, a leading arts booking agency for some of the best contemporary writers, has offered to represent the series and its authors.

The African Poetry Fund will, through the Series and other projects, promote the writing and publication of African poetry through an international complex of additional collaborations and partnerships. The fund and its partners will offer support for seminars, workshops and other publishing opportunities for African poets.

Six gifted and internationally regarded poets will serve as the editorial board for the series. Ghanaian-born poet, Kwame Dawes will serve as the Series editor, soliciting new writing and also welcoming unsolicited submissions for consideration for the series. Also serving on the editorial board are: the South African poet Gabeba Baderoon, the American novelist John Keene, the Nigerian poet and novelist Chris Abani, the Egyptian-American poet Matthew Shenoda, and Bernardine Evaristo, award-winning novelist and poet from the UK.

Make sure to stay tuned to Prairie Schooner’s website, blog, Facebook, and Twitter for further projects of this enterprising Series.