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Somali poet Jamila Osman is named joint winner of the attention-grabbing Brunel International African Poetry Prize.

Jamila, who writes and teaches in Portland, Oregon, will share the £3,000 prize with Egyptian poet Nadra Mabrouk from Cairo.

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Aimed at putting poetry from Africa on the stage internationally, the major prize is for African poets worldwide who are yet to publish a full collection.

Jamila Osman Crowned African Poetry Prize Winner
Jamila Osman is a Portland-based Somali writer and educator currently working on a memoir.

“In Jamila Osman’s poetry, the reader is introduced to a poet whose cadence and craft come together like the fine edge of a knife,” said judges, Matthew Shenoda Leila Chatti and Phillippa Yaa de Villers.

“Osman’s detailed view of memory both personal and collective create a space for poems that are dipped in diasporic ink and carry a trajectory forever rooted in her home country of Somalia.” The poets and academics added: “Jamila Osman is a poet of allegorical beauty and someone for whom we should all be delighted to read more of in the future.”

Previous winners include Warsan Shire, from Somali, who later worked with Beyoncé on her album Lemonade, and Nigeria’s Romeo Oriogun, now a Fellow at Harvard University.

“When I started the prize in 2012, African poetry was almost invisible on the international literary landscape,” said founder Prof Bernardine Evaristo.

“Today there are legions of poets out there successfully building careers and being heard,” said the award-winning British-Nigerian writer based at Brunel University London. “It demonstrates the power of schemes such as mine, the African Poetry Book Fund’s many projects, and other initiatives, to revolutionize the literature of an entire continent. The future looks very bright and African poetry is a global force staking its claim.”

Jamila’s poems span far-ranging issues from place and identity, immigration and border justice through to education and race. Read some below or go here

Notes to editors

The Prize is sponsored by Brunel University London and Commonwealth Writers.

For interviews with the poets, email Bernardine.Evaristo@brunel.ac.uk

The full 2019 shortlist is Afua Ansong (Ghana), Mary-Alice Daniel (Nigeria), Inua Ellams (Nigeria), K. Eltinae (Nubian Sudan), Omotara James (Nigeria), Nadra Mabrouk (Egypt), Selina Nwulu (Nigeria), Emmanuel Oppong (Ghana), Jamila Osman (Somalia), Sherry Shenoda (Egypt).

Hayley Jarvis

Senior Media Relations Officer

ORIGINAL SIN

By Jamila Osman

God gutted Adam,
hauling Hawa from between
his ribs. The first woman coaxed
from the bone of man.

The apple rusting the clay
of their throats. This world,
aftermath of their desire.

To some, Hawa is to blame
for what has been lost.
Adam blameless as all boys will be.

On the Day of Judgement
the body will testify against its tenant—
the tongue made to account for
the many languages of its lies.

The eyes will confess every
forbidden glance at salt mired
cities they could not save,

the green thumb apologetic
for every rooted thing it culled
from the earth in envy.

In Islam there is no original sin:
each person guilty only for what
is lost at their hands.

Before the fall, God taught
Adam the Names of Things.
Words scrolled in the grove
of his mouth, which of them
did he leave behind?

Every word Hawa spoke,
one he remembered.
Who among us does not suffer
from what Adam forgot?

Saying to each other only
half of what we hoped,
the message mangled,

what we say barely grazing
the surface of what we mean.

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