The African Poetry Book Fund’s New-Generation African Poets: A Chapbook Box Set is one of the most important annual literary projects, presenting to a wide audience the work of fresh and promising poets in the continent and its diaspora. Edited by Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani, and published by Akashic Books, an independent press in Brooklyn, it has been described by The Washington Post as “a vital project.”
Started in 2014, it has published over 60 chapbooks. Previous contributors include Safia Elhillo, Ladan Osman, Whiting Award winner in poetry this year; Romeo Oriogun, whose debut Sacrament of Bodies is a finalist for the LAMBDA Award for Best Gay Poetry; and Momtaza Mehri.
This year, the 350-page, 14-piece, limited-edition box set contains chapbooks by 13 poets: Selina Nwulu, Ayan M. Omar, Jeremy Teddy Karn, Ajibola Tolase, Hauwa Shaffii Nuhu, Sara Elkamel, Precious Arinze, Lameese Badr, Qutouf Yahia, Edil Hassan, Kolawole Adebayo, Cynthia Amoah, and Saradha Soobrayen.
A poet and essayist from Nigeria, Hauwa Shaffii Nuhu’s chapbook Sister “explores the feelings of guilt, shame, self-loathe, love and other complex emotions that spring up in a sister, as her relationship with her brother transforms in the wake of his life taking a different and not so good turn,” she tells Open Country Mag in an email.
Having a chapbook in the box set, for Nuhu, “feels like a dream . . . I have owned every APBF box set released in the past few years, and the thought that I get to have my own chapbook in this year’s boxset is just so surreal. I’m full of gratitude.”
Miryam Magdalit by Liberia’s Jeremy T. Karn is an exploration of grief, memory, and war. “Quite religious,” Karn describes it. It is “about my experiences as a child growing up in a war-torn country.” Karn began writing in 2016, and having a book in the box set is overwhelming but also plenty of encouragement for him, a boost for his belief in his own work.
Karn wants those who read Miryam Magdalit “to feel what we felt in this country for fourteen years. I want them to read how we grew up calling bullets in the sky at night shooting stars.”
“I hope that it holds whoever needs it to hold them,” Hauwa Shaffii Nuhu says of Sister. “There are so many people needing to be held, unable to be held. If the book holds just one person, it would make my life.”
The contributing poets also shared their chapbook covers on Twitter.
New-Generation African Poets: A Chapbook Box Set (Nane) arrives September 2021. Pre-order here.