The African Poetry Book Fund announced on December 21 that a local poet is this year's winner of the Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry.
Vancouver's Juliane Okot Bitek, who is of Ugandan heritage and was born in Kenya, won the US$1,000 award for her 2016 poetry collection 100 Days. Okot Bitek wrote the poems in response to the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide.
As judge of this year's prize, scholar and writer John Keene had this to say about Okot Bitek's work:
“In 100 Days, poet Juliane Okot Bitek set out to memorialize the tragedy of the Rwandan genocide, but the witnessing force of these brief, incantatory poems ripples outward to figuratively encompass multiple histories of violence and brutality, including the terror her own family and countless others faced under Idi Amin’s regime in Uganda. The lyric beauty, intertextual depth, and metonymic power of Okot Bitek’s poetry underscores the capacities of art and language to cast light into the darkest corners of our human experience, and bridge the gulfs that lie between us.”
Okot Bitek is a PhD candidate in the Interdisciplinary Students Graduate Program at the University of British Columbia’s Liu Institute for Global Issues, and her work has appeared in publications such as Arc, Whetstone, Fugue, and Room, and in anthologies such as Great Black North: Contemporary African Canadian Poetry and Revolving City: 51 Poems and the Stories Behind Them.
Honorable mention went to Timothy Ogene’s Descent & Other Poems and Stephen Symons’s Questions for the Sea.
The Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry promotes African poetry written in English or in translation by recognizing a significant book published each year by an African poet.