The African Poetry Book Fund has announced Leila Chatti’s collection Deluge as winner of its 2021 Luschei Prize for African Poetry. The Tunisian American poet was selected for the $1,000 award, the only pan-African book prize for poets, by the novelist Chris Abani, who served as judge.
“A deeply human, political and spiritual exploration of a biological crisis, this debut collection wrestles with all the big concepts and with a profound dark night of the soul,” Abani wrote. “It takes on religion, God, patriarchy, culture, and the body and its many betrayals in lyrical and urgent poems. A highly anticipated and important book.”
The three other finalists were ‘Femi Morgan’s The Year of Fire, Victoria Naa Takia Nunoo’s Brass Neck, and Songs We Learn from Trees, edited by Chris Beckett and Alemu Tebeje. Songs We Learn from Trees is the first anthology of Amharic poetry in English.
“This year’s finalists are such a strong showing,” Abani wrote, “and give me such joy to see these movements happening in African poetry and sometimes from really small presses.”
Chatti’s poems have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, POETRY, and The Nation. She has won a Pushcart Prize, grants from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund and the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, and Cleveland State University, where she was the inaugural Anisfield-Wolf Fellow in Publishing and Writing. Last year, she judged the Fugue contest. She is currently the Mendota Lecturer in Poetry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Deluge was published by Copper Canyon Press.
The Luschei Prize for African Poetry is funded by the literary philanthropist and poet Glenna Luschei, and honours books of poetry in English or in translation by an African poet. Its custodian, the African Poetry Book Fund, is directed by Kwame Dawes, George Holmes Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner. The APBF was created with funding by Laura and Robert F. X. Sillerman. Recently, it took over the Brunel International African Poetry Prize, renaming it after its founder Bernardine Evaristo who stepped aside.
The 2022 Luschei Prize for African Poetry will open to submissions on May 1.