Nigerian Poet Wins Toi Derricotte & Cornelius Eady Chapbook Prize

Wale Ayinla’s To Cast a Dream will now be published by Jai-Alai Books.
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Wale Ayinla. From Wale Ayinla.

Wale Ayinla. From Wale Ayinla.

Wale Ayinla, a Nigerian poet, essayist, and editor, has won the 2020 Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady Chapbook Prize for his manuscript To Cast a Dream. In it, Ayinla deftly explores loss, grief, hope, and movement. The prize is “dedicated to the discovery of exceptional chapbook-length manuscripts by Black poets.” The finalists were Christopher Rose for Stage Dive, Alexa Patrick for Remedies for Disappearing, and kiki nicole for Autobiography of Boi Venus.

Ayinla wrote the poems in To Cast a Dream between 2018 and 2019.

“[The book] explores the concept of individual and communal loss during migration, and the unfortunateness of some of the illegal emigrations from Africa to Europe,” he told Open Country Mag. “The collection is a dialogue with history, memory and the uncertainties of times.”

In selecting the manuscript, Mahogany L. Browne wrote:

The collection, To Cast a Dream, serves as both eulogy and ode; to the water, to the land, and to the survival of voice. Song, Ocean, Skin, Lapis and Lift — these moments of liberation are the pulse of the poetry. And they beckon us closer, to the page and to ourselves. Who revels in the shine of this literary legacy? Wale Ayinla.

Ayinla will receive $500, publication with Jai-Alai Books in spring of 2021, and printed copies of the chapbook. Ayinla will also be part of a residency at The Writer’s Room at The Betsy Hotel in Miami, and will feature in a reading at the O, Miami Poetry Festival.

Wale Ayinla has work in Guernica, South Dakota Review, TriQuarterly, Rhino Poetry, Up The Staircase Quarterly, The Lit Quarterly, Cimarron Review, Ruminate Magazine, McNeese Review, Poet Lore, and elsewhere. He is a staff reader for Adroit Journal. His full-length manuscript, Sea Blues on Water Meridian, was a finalist for the inaugural Center for African American Poetry and Poetics (CAAPP) Book Prize.

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“Even days after I got the email that I won the prize,” Ayinla told us, still in surprise, “I went back to confirm if it was real.”

Ernest Ogunyemi
Ernest O. Ògúnyẹmí was a staff writer at Open Country Mag. His works have recently appeared/are forthcoming in AGNI, Joyland, No Tokens, Olongo Africa, The Dark, Fiyah, Agbowó, Southern Humanities Review, Minnesota Review, McNeese Review, Down River Road, and West Trade Review. He is the curator of The Fire That Is Dreamed of: The Young African Poets Anthology.

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