Cheswayo Mphanza Shortlisted for National Book Critics Circle Awards

The Zambian poet is up for his debut collection The Rinehart Frames.
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Cheswayo Mphanza by The Paris Review.

Cheswayo Mphanza by The Paris Review.

Cheswayo Mphanza’s The Rinehart Frames has been announced as a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Awards. The Zambian poet’s debut collection, published by the University of Nebraska Press last year, is among the finalists in the poetry category. There are 29 other finalists in the categories of fiction, general nonfiction, autobiography, biography, criticism, and poetry.

In 2020, the manuscript of The Rinehart Frames won the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets, sparking anticipation for the book. Open Country Mag published an in-depth review, praising it as an “exciting achievement in intertextual poetry”:

The Rinehart Frames is at once literary criticism, cultural commentary, art criticism, a scholarly text. It is a conversation with writers and artists and historical figures whose work/personality have moved Mphanza in a way. But it is also a homage to them and their work. As Kwame Dawes puts it: ‘The centos emerge here, then, as a physical enactment of a spirit of intellectual generosity and gratitude. These poems are elaborate, exciting performances, delivered almost effortlessly.’

Cheswayo Mphanza was born in Lusaka, Zambia, and grew up in Chicago, Illinois. His work has appeared in the New England Review, The Paris Review, Hampden-Sydney Review, Lolwe, and Birdfeast. He has received a fellowship from the Bread Load Writers Conference and won the Hurston/Wright Award for College Writers and the 2020 Boston Review Annual Poetry Contest.

“The Rinehart Frames seeks to capture the ubiquitous nature in which Blackness exists,” Mphanza told Open Country Mag last year. “Essentially, the ontological argument is the splayed-ness of Blackness. Thus, the perpetual contestation of living in a Black body is resistance and folding.”

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The National Book Critics Circle was founded in 1974 at New York’s Algonquin Hotel by a group of the period’s most influential critics. Its over 600 members in America nominate potential finalists into six categories. The finalists are then nominated, evaluated, and selected by a 24-member board of directors.

The National Book Critics Circle Awards will be presented on March 17, in a virtual ceremony open to the public.

Emmanuel Esomnofu
Emmanuel Esomnofu is a staff writer at Open Country Mag. He is a culture journalist and has written extensively on Nigerian music and on several moving parts of popular culture. His writing appears online in Native Mag, Okay Africa, Kalahari Review, Praxis Magazine, and elsewhere. He was published in print in The Muse, the oldest student journal in West Africa. In December 2020, he worked on "Fuji: A Opera" as a copywriter, creating informative and exciting stories from Fuji's rich history.

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