The Brunel International African Poetry Prize will be renamed the Evaristo African Poetry Prize, after its founder, Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo, announced she was stepping aside from running the influential prize. This comes a decade after the prize, supported by Brunel University London, began rewarding the work of emerging poets from the continent.
The Brunel Prize will however complete its current year. The winner will be announced in May 2022. The new Evaristo Prize, now administered by the African Poetry Book Fund (APBF), will open for submissions in October 2022.
The old prize’s inspiration to “encourage a new generation of poets who might one day become an international presence” has been greatly fulfilled by the caliber of writers who have won or been shortlisted for it over the years. They include Warsan Shire, Sahia Elhillo, Nick Makoha, Gbenga Adesina, and Romeo Oriogun, some of whom went on to publish books with the APBF, a longtime partner of the prize.
In a post on Facebook, Evaristo, who started the prize in 2012, mentioned the need to streamline her activities after a decade of running it alone. The APBF founder Kwame Dawes then “leapt into action and offered to take on the prize.” She was “wary of using my name because it might be seen as vain, but I also appreciate that it will attract more attention for the prize.”
In a comment, Dawes said, “There are a handful of gifted artists who have managed to model exceptional literary citizenship in their leadership, influence and advocacy for greater openness in the arts, and Bernadine Evaristo represents the best of such individuals. Having this prize named after her honors her, but more than that, it honors the prize.”
Evaristo has published books of fiction and poetry, including Girl, Woman, Other, which made her the first Black woman and Black British writer to win the Booker Prize in 2019. Earlier this year, she released Manifesto: On Never Giving Up, her first book of nonfiction.
Last month she was announced as the new President of the Royal Society of Literature, taking over from Mariner Warner who called her “one of literature’s most passionate and effective advocates.”
The last winner of the Brunel International African Poetry Prize will be announced in May 2022.