May 12, 2014

Donation creates prize for published works of African poetry

Glenna Luschei

The African Poetry Book Fund in partnership with Prairie Schooner, the quarterly literary journal at UNL, is offering a new prize through the generosity of poet and literary philanthropist Glenna Luschei.

Starting this year, the Glenna Luschei Prize will be awarded to a collection by an African poet published in the previous year, thus making it the first prize to recognize published works of African poetry. The winner will receive $5,000 and commendation at a ceremony to be held in a major United States city.

“They say once Africa bites you, you never recover,” Luschei said when asked about her choice to endow a prize specifically for African poetry. “I return there whenever I can.”

In addition to her bequest of the Glenna Luschei Prize, Luschei is known for her generous endowment to Prairie Schooner, which funds both the journal and its editor in perpetuity.

Luschei’s decision to recognize African poetry comes through her scholarly work and appreciation of the art itself.

“Through my Portuguese studies I came to love the literature,” said Luschei, a University of Nebraska alumna and former Prairie Schooner editorial assistant. “But it wasn’t until I read Kofi Awoonor’s ‘The Promise of Hope’ that I realized I had to invest myself in African publication. In his ‘I’ll Raise a New Song,’ Awoonor exhorts those of us who have ‘been witness/ to the immense drama/ of time and space; you must give evidence of this immeasurable beauty….’ I wanted to do my part in giving evidence.”

To be eligible for the Glenna Luschei Prize, a collection must be published by a recognized press and the author must be of African nationality, African residency or African parentage. Each year, an internationally renowned poet will judge nominations, beginning with Nigerian writer and poet Chris Abani. Nominations for 2013 published works are open from May 1 to July 1, with a winner announced in October.

“No such prize for African poetry exists, and so we are deeply grateful to Glenna Luschei for helping to make this a reality in the spirit of the African Poetry Book Fund that is committed to celebrating the richness of poetry by publishing work by African writers,” said Kwame Dawes, Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner and Director of the African Poetry Book Fund.

In addition to her work in literary philanthropy, Glenna Luschei founded Solo Press in 1966 and has published the poetry magazines Cafe Solo, Solo, Solo Cafe, and Solo Novo. She has received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a D.H. Lawrence Fellowship, and served as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts. Her latest volume of poetry, “Leaving It All Behind,” was published by Presa Press in 2011.

Guidelines for nominating collections for the Glenna Luschei Prize are available on the Prizes section of the African Poetry Book Fund website, at

For more information about the African Poetry Book Fund, visit Information about Prairie Schooner is available at, or through Facebook and Twitter.