At Praxis, we are especially delighted over the Brunel International African Poetry Prize shortlist as one of our very own, Romeo Oriogun- whose first poetry collection Burnt Men, published by Praxis – made the shortlist!

We talked to him hours after the press release and Romeo says he’s too elated for words:

‘I still don’t know what it (making the shortlist) means. I’m trying to make sense out of the whole thing but for now, I’m just happy. Recently, life has been a scary place, so I’m trying to find joy in little things, in blessings such as this.’

Those of us who follow Romeo Oriogun on social media will be familiar with the poet’s work and his openness in sharing stories of his struggle with depression. We are happy because he is happy. On how he would feel should he emerge winner of the prize, Romeo says,

‘I’m not thinking about that. The shortlist is made up of great poets and to be on it is already enough for me. You know what gives me immense joy? It is the fact that my friends, Saddiq and Rasaq are on that list. To be in the company of poets who are brothers on this journey of solitude is a wonderful thing.’

It is no longer news on how tough it is for young Nigerians living in Nigeria to live off their art. Romeo tells us why he can’t stop writing, regardless of the setbacks:

‘Writing is the only way I know how to make sense out of the chaos or order surrounding me. For me, it is like drawing a map to navigate through life.’

The saying goes, whatever worth doing, is what doing well. Romeo lets us in on some of the authors whose work make his better:

Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky With Exit Wounds, Loop of Jade by Sarah Howe, Gabriel Marquez’ Love in the Time of Cholera, Niran Okewole’s The Hate Artist, Ariel by Sylvia Plath, Wild Geese: Selected Poems by Mary Oliver.

The Brunel International African Poetry Prize was first won by the international poet, Warsan Shire in 2013 and she made the shortlist again in 2016. Nick Makoha and Kayo Chiongoyi are both making their second appearance on the list, with Makoha being a joint-winner in 2015. It is therefore exciting to see other new names this time making headway in the African literary sphere. Especially when they are Nigerians! Last year, Gbenga Adesina and Chekwube O. Danladi were the joint-winners. This year, we are definitely rooting for our young author, Romeo. Go bring that prize home!

Congratulations to everyone on the shortlist.

Read about the prize here. Download Romeo’s Burnt Men here.

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