By Halima Abdi
Published December 22, 2017
Juliane Okot Bitek has won the 2017 Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry.
Bitek, who was born in Kenya of Ugandan parents before migrating to Canada, won the prize with her poetry collection titled 100 Days. It is based on the Rwandan genocide of 1994.
“These brief, incantatory poems ripple outward to figuratively encompass multiple histories of violence and brutality,” said writer and scholar John Keene judged this year’s prize.”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.”
In 100 Days, Keene said, “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 of art and language to cast light into the darkest corners of our human experience, and bridge the gulfs that lie between us.”
Bitek, who shall receive US$1000 cash prize, is a doctoral Candidate with the University of British Columbia’s Liu Institute for Global Issues in Vancouver. Her study is on history, memory and alienation.
Meanwhile, the Prairie Schooner Book Prize that opens on January 15, 2018 invites submissions until March 15, 2018.
The organisers of the prize say they award two prizes–one in fiction and one in poetry–every year.
Saying “Each author receives $3000 and publication through the University of Nebraska Press,” the organisers say they “prefer that fiction manuscripts be at least 150 pages long and poetry manuscripts be at least 50 pages long. Novels aren’t considered. We’re looking for short story collections, but will gladly consider manuscripts with one novella alongside short stories.”