[APP]–Romeo Oriogun, one of the four Nigerian shortlisted for the 2017 Brunel International African Poetry Prize has won the prestigious £3000 poetry prize.
The announcement was made today via the African Poetry Prize website.
According to the website, “Romeo Oriogun from Nigeria is the winner of the 2017 Brunel International African Poetry Prize for his “beautiful and deeply passionate” writing on masculinity and desire.”
It went further, “The judges were unanimous this year in their decision that among a shortlist of ten stunning new poets selected from nearly 1,200 entries, Oriogun – who only began writing three years ago – should receive the prize for his outstanding poetry.”
The judges in their verdict declared that “Romeo Oriogun is a hugely talented and urgent new voice in African poetry. His poems are deeply passionate, shocking, imaginative, complex and ultimately beautiful explorations of masculinity, sexuality and desire in a country that does not recognise LGBT rights. We wish him all the best for the future.”
In a recent interview, Oriogun revealed: “Sometimes this is the price I pay for writing but it is better than keeping quiet. I know queer people may not be free to love openly in my lifetime but it is a journey and we are laying the stones for the future.
“Each poem I write is a door into another, I don’t dwell much on my writing but I’m moved when someone says because of my poems he knows he’s not alone and his feelings are valid. It makes me feel that what I’m doing is living a life of its own and it’s traveling with light into dark places.”
In an earlier analyses written by THE PAGE staff, it was said of Oriogun that his works which are “truly grabbing and superbly brave spin on the realistic life of an imagined gay man will definitely resonate with the judges.
“In the history of the BUAPP, no poet with such daring and liberal convictions has ever made it to the shortlist. Considering the polarizing and criminalized nature of the LGBT activism is Nigeria, it will only make the judges more impressed with Oriogun’s choice to delve into the fearful jungle of expressing an unpopular opinion. Consistent with the kind of emotional core exhibited in his Praxis Magazine-published chapbook, “Burnt Men” the poems in this shortlist reveal a true giant of perception and manipulation.
“He taps into the element of humanness to break through the barrier of religious-cum-social bias. No matter how strong your homophobia is, Oriogun forces you to see the human side of the average queer man and feel pity, at least fleetingly, for his plight. Only Oriogun can do that.”
In the same analyses, it was predicted that the race for the £3000 poetry prize will be a fierce fight between him and Rasaq Malik, who was described as reaching “into the reader’s heart and wrenches it with an intentional villainy…”
“This is going to be a draw. Malik’s deeply urgent spin on war and terrosim, so well-done that it makes it all the more refreshing, will go head-to-head with Oriogun’s very radical exploration of the violence faced by queers in Nigeria. With many of the judges being liberal-minded, expect both poets to have a high stake of popularity with them.”
The judges for the 2017 edition included Chris Abani (Northwestern University); Kwame Dawes (University of Nebraska); Safia Elhillo (winner of the 2015 Prize); Patricia Jabbeh Welsley (Penn State University) and chair and founder, Bernardine Evaristo (Brunel University London).
The Prize is a partnership between Brunel and Commonwealth Writers, and works closely with Kwame Dawes and the African Poetry Book Fund (APBF) at the University of Nebraska.
Oriogun lives and writes in Nigeria. His poems have been featured in Brittle Paper, African Writer, Expound, Praxis, and others. He is the author of Burnt Men, an electronic chapbook published by Praxis Magazine Online.
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