Calling all African poets: get published!

Where to submit your new work

This week’s post is addressed more to African poets and those who work with them than to readers and would-be readers of African poetry. The vast majority of publishing venues and critical studies of African literature focus on fiction, and between major awards like the Caine Prize for short stories, journals like Granta, and publishing houses like Becky Ayebia Clarke placing African fiction is not as challenging as placing poetry. So where can emerging and established poets submit their work? For those interested in a U.S. readership, one great general resource is Poets and Writers magazine’s website, which includes listings of competitions (most of which charge a submission fee in US dollars, which contributes to the global segregation of such awards). The competitions can be sorted by genre. In addition,  an index of the small literary journals that publish most individual poems in the U.S. These sometimes charge a modest reading fee as well. However, writers are likely to find that these venues rarely publish African writers for a variety of reasons, not least of which concerns regional (one might even say provincial) aesthetics. A recent article in Poetry Magazine on Irish poet Thomas Pickard observed that American readers rarely read Anglophone poetry from outside the US. It's not just Africa that gets overlooked, but indeed, the Commonwealth as a whole.

There are a number of venues, however, that value African poetry and are actively seeking new voices to expand the readership. First, there are a number of recently established prizes. These include a project led by Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani, the African Poetry Book Fund, which sponsors an annual competition (The Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poetry). Their deadline is imminent, on December 1, 2015, so do your last edits on that manuscript and send it now! There is also the Brunel Prize based in the UK and overseen by Bernadine Evaristo. Their deadline, November 30, is also approaching soon. [Full disclosure: I am serving as one of the judges this year]. Along with these there are numerous more local poetry competitions, some of which have developed strong on-line presences. Uganda’s Babishai Niwe Poetry Competition, attached to its festival of poetry, is one exciting new initiative. Along with these, several of the sites I’ve already featured for their recent publications (Badilishah and Jalada) accept submissions regularly. But for one of the most comprehensive lists of other places to submit to, check out this wonderful blog post by “Paidion Moi” on African literary journals.