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Announcing the Winner of the 2018 Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize

Tsitsi Jaji headshot
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Cave Canem and Northwestern University Press congratulate Tsitsi Jaji on receiving the 2018 prize for her second book of poems, Mother Tongues, selected by Matthew Shenoda. The Cave Canem Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize is a second-book award for Black poets of African descent, offered every other year. The award celebrates and publishes works of lasting cultural value and literary excellence.

On Jaji’s Mother Tongues, Matthew Shenoda says that “With considered precision and a scholar’s lens, we [the reader] dive deep into the cultural productions of a global Africa rife with brilliance and possibility.” As an awardee, Jaji will receive $1,000, publication by Northwestern University Press in 2019, and 15 author copies.

Tsitsi Jaji’s debut collection, Beating the Graves, (African Poetry Book Fund/ U Nebraska Press, 2017), was a runner up for the 2015 Sillerman Prize. Her chapbook, Carnaval (Hudson Valley Writers Center, 2014), appeared in the first New Generation African Poets box set. Jaji is an associate professor of English and African & African American Studies at Duke University and has taught writing workshops in her home country, Zimbabwe. Her scholarly book, Africa in Stereo: Music, Modernism and Pan-African Solidarity (Oxford Uni. Press, 2014), won the 2016 First Book Award from the African Literature Association. Jaji has held fellowships at the National Humanities Center, the Schomburg Center (NEH), Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and at the Society for the Humanities at Cornell.Her poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Black Renaissance Noire, Jalada, New Coin, Harvard Review, Boston Review online, Poetry International, the Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day series and elsewhere.

Dr. Irène P. Mathieu was selected as runner-up for her manuscript Grand Marronage, of which Shenoda says holds poems that “consistently dig beneath the surface of gender, culture, and memory.” Mathieu is the author of orogeny (Trembling Pillow Press, 2017) and a chapbook, the galaxy of origins (dancing girl press & studio, 2014).