Romeo Oriogun has been named winner of the 2017 Brunel International African Poetry Prize.
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. It is aimed at the development, celebration and promotion of poetry from Africa. It is open to African poets worldwide who have not yet published a full poetry collection.
Oriogun was shortlisted alongside Nigerian poets Saddiq Dzukogi, Rasak Malik Gbolahan, and Kechi Nomu, Somalia’s Sahro Ali, Tunisia’s Leila Chatti, Zambia’s Kayo Chingonyi, Sierra Leone’s Yalie Kamara, Kenya’s Richard Oduour Oduku, and Nick Makoha from Uganda; But Oriogun’s brilliant writing on masculinity, sexuality and desire in the face of LGBT criminalisation and persecution, won him the 2017's £3,000 Prize.
Romeo lives in Udi, eastern Nigeria and his poems have been featured in Brittle Paper, African Writer, Expound, Praxis, and others. He explained that he entered the Brunel International African Poetry Prize because “in Africa there are very few spaces for queer writing…”, he also described reaching the shortlist as “a blessing and a surprise.
Previous Winners of Brunel International African Poetry Prize are:
- Gbenga Adesina (Nigeria) & Chekwube O. Danladi (Nigeria) 2016
- Safia Elhillo (Sudan) & Nick Makoha (Uganda) 2015
- Liyou Libsekal (Ethiopia) 2014
- Warsan Shire (Somalia) 2013
Below is a poem by Romeo Oriogun
After A Visit To The Museum
In primary school my teacher wrote
on a board as black as him:
A white man discovered River Niger.
Forget the fact that Mungo Park was sick
and his bones were brittle like old papers
when he saw the origin of water.
Forget the fact that our fathers
showed him the way into leaves
before they were written out of history.
Forget the fact that our mothers
pulled our breakfast from the heart
of that river.
Forget the fact that the river was a goddess
and from time immemorial
our throat has been filled with her songs.
Here is what the book didn’t say:
After drinking tea and rising up from a room
made cold by 10 black women fanning her naked skin,
Flora rose up and named us Nigeria,
the name she screamed as her body fell over the cliff.
It is true, sex has always led to the altering of history,
ask Adam, ask Cleopatra, ask my father.
I came through a soil brown
like the wrinkled skin of my grandmother.
The truth is we were here before
the beginning of time.
The truth is everything a white man
touches he names.
I was told my ancestors rode the wind
till it bore their name.
Someday I will accept this truth and write an elegy
to places that are lost names walking in blindness.