Leila Chatti wins 2021 Luschei Prize for African Poetry

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Leila Chatti wins 2021 Luschei Prize for African Poetry

Leila Chatti
Leila Chatti

Tunisian-American poet Leila Chatti has been named the winner of the African Poetry Book Fund’s 2021 Luschei Prize for African Poetry, for her collection “Deluge.”

Award-winning author and poet Chris Abani judged this year’s prize, which annually awards $1,000 to a book of poetry by an African writer published in the previous year.

Abani praised the book, writing: “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. 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.”

Chatti’s honors include 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. She currently teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she is the Mendota Lecturer in Poetry. Her poems have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Nation, The Atlantic and POETRY.

“Deluge” is available for purchase online from Bookshop.org and bookstores that carry Copper Canyon Press titles.

In addition to the winning book, Abani notes three finalists: “The Year of Fire” by ‘Femi Morgan, “Brass Neck” by Victoria Naa Takia Nunoo and “Songs We Learn from Trees” edited by Chris Beckett and Alemu Tebeje.

“This year’s finalists are such a strong showing and give me such joy to see these movements happening in African poetry and sometimes from really small presses,” Abani said.

The African Poetry Book fund is directed by Kwame Dawes, George Holmes Distinguished Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner. Established through the generosity of Laura and Robert F. X. Sillerman, the fund seeks to celebrate and cultivate the poetic arts of Africa.

The Luschei Prize for African Poetry, funded by literary philanthropist and poet Glenna Luschei and the only pan-African book prize of its kind, promotes African poetry written in English or in translation by recognizing a significant book published each year by an African poet.

The 2022 Luschei Prize for African Poetry will open to submissions of books by African poets published during 2021 on May 1.

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