Othuke Umukoro has won the 2021 Brunel Prize. He is the fifth Nigerian to win the award. The 3k prize, is sponsored by the Brunel University London, open to African poets who are yet to publish a full poetry collection.
Emerging from a shortlist of eight which included Nigerians Yomi Sode and Oluwadare Popoola, Gambian Kweku Abimbola, Ugandan Arao Ameny, South African Isabelle Baafi, Somalian Asmaa Jama and Mosotho Tumelo Motaboloa, Othuke’s win comes as a “unanimous decision.”
The judging panel, chaired by poets Karen McCarthy Woolf, and including Rustum Kozain (South Africa) and Makhosazana Xaba (South Africa), have this to say about the winning poems: “The language is lush, mesmeric at times and the balance between lyric and narrative deftly handled. There is a technical competence too. These are unafraid, thoughtful pieces — playful, yet serious, making us look at love, life, mortality afresh. The elegiac A Mountain Cracks Before Translation — mourning the suicide of a brother found hanging — heartbreaking, but never gratuitous in its detail. A complex poet, with the formal skills to match the weight of the subjects he takes on, whether it’s sexuality and the family dynamic, HIV, or nature, ecology and politics.”
The Brunel Prize, aimed at developing, celebrating, and promoting African poetry is the largest cash prize for African poetry in the world. Previous winners are: Warsan Shire (2013); Liyou Libsekal (2014); Safia Elhillo & Nick Makoha (2015); Gbenga Adesina & Chekwube O. Danladi (2016); Romeo Oriogun (2017); Hiwot Adilow, Theresa Lola & Momtaza Mehri (2018); Nadra Mabrouk & Jamila Osman (2019); Rabha Ashry (2020).
Othuke Umukoro, whose poetry explores the language of quietness, the geography of memory, home, depression, hope, loss & occasionally the ‘other’ that hovers around traditional father–son relationships, has been published in Agbowo, Crooked Arrow Press, Mineral Lit Mag, The Sunlight Press, Kissing Dynamite, and elsewhere.
Congratulations to Othuke Umukoro. We wish him all the best in his writing journey.