The Nigerian poet and essayist Chibụìhè Obi Achịmbá is the winner of Frontier Poetry’s 2021 Award for New Poets. He received the $3,000 prize for his poem “a sonnet: a slaughter field.”
Established in 2017 by Frontier Poetry, an American poetry magazine and publisher, the Award for New Poets recognizes exceptional poems from rising poets who have “no more than one full length collection at the time of submission.” The judging panel is composed of emerging poets who seek “work that is blister, that is color, that strikes hot the urge to live and be.”
“Winning the 2021 Frontier Poetry Award for New Poets is perhaps another bold nudge for me to release these poems into the world,” Achịmbá told Open Country Mag. “I’ve been sitting with them for a while now.”
An LGBTQ+ activist, Achịmbá was a 2019 Harvard University Scholar-at-Risk Fellow and a visiting poet in the school’s Department of English. He was a finalist for the Gerald Kraak Prize and served as the 2020 Summer Visiting Artist at the Oregon Institute for Creative Research. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Guernica, and Harvard Review. He is an MFA student at Brown University where he is working on a poetry collection and a memoir. He is the founding editor of Dgëku, a literary magazine for queer African writing.
Achịmbá said that he almost didn’t enter for the prize, due to its $20 submission fee, if not for the assistance of a close friend, Adachioma Ezeano, who this year won an O. Henry Prize.
“Part of the reality of being an international student is that one is always nearly broke—especially when, like me, your visa status does not grant you employment privileges in America,” he said. “Writing contests cost money, albeit a negligible fraction, but, quite frankly, the affordability of these contest fees depends on one’s position on the socio-economic spectrum. As of late summer, I was too broke to pay the submission fee but was lucky to have a supportive friend who stepped in because she believes in my goddam genius.”
Achịmbá’s “a sonnet: a slaughter field” is scheduled for publication on January 11, 2022.