Sindiswa Busuku-Mathese has been announced as the winner of the 2018 Ingrid Jonker Prize for English Poetry, for her 2016 collection Loud and Yellow Laughter.
The Durban-born poet’s debut was described by the prize judges as ‘moving’ and ‘completely original’.
Loud and Yellow Laughter
Botsotso Books, 2016
The Ingrid Jonker Prize is awarded in alternate years to a debut poetry collection in English or Afrikaans. The winner receives a cash prize ‘dependent on the interest accumulated in an account originally established for this purpose’.
This year’s judges, who are unaware of each other’s identities until judging is complete, were Sindiwe Magona, Helen Moffett and John Cartwright.
According to the prize announcement, Busuku-Mathese’s entry was described by one judge as ‘completely original: the presentation of family history as a play, in which the narrator is an unreliable character’. The poet was praised for the ‘the mix of World War II history, the narrator’s dilemmas about being adopted, and the way she manages to weave these together without ever losing her balance or falling into incongruity’.
Another judge highlighted how Busuku-Mathese’s ‘memoir in the form of a collage … offers fragments in several voices, some of them “reconstructed”. [The collection] ‘movingly reflects the quest of the “The Girl Child”, as intimate “curator” of family memory and experience, to integrate the surprising puzzle that is her current self’.
A record twenty entries were received for this year’s edition of the prize, and many other submissions received praise from the judges.
From the prize committee:
Collective Amnesia by Koleka Putuma was hailed as ‘practically a book of directions, a chart of expression, for thousands of young South Africans, grappling with the issues she raises … [the poet’s voice is] substantive and compelling.’
A Season of Tenderness and Dread by Abu Bakr Solomons ‘makes most satisfying reading … The volume has broad reach; the poems [are] deeply moving, questioning or enlightening.’
Metaphysical Balm by Michele Betty was commended for ‘the exceptional skill in which the author handles intertextuality’.
Other volumes mentioned appreciatively in the judges’ reports included Questions for the Sea by Stephen Symons, Unlikely by Colleen Crawford Cousins, Modern Rasputin by Rosa Lyster, Thungachi by Francine Simon and Serurubele by Katleho Kano Shoro.
The Ingrid Jonker committee is: Ronel de Goede (convenor), Leon de Kock, Finuala Dowling, Beverly Rycroft and Vincent Oliphant.
Thabo Jijana won the 2016 edition of the prize, for Failing Maths and My Other Crimes.