The prize, worth $1,000 (about R14 900), is awarded annually to a book of poetry by an African writer published in the previous year. Collective Amnesia was published by uHlanga Press in 2017; Putuma wins the 2018 award.
Putuma said, ‘I never imagined that poetry would be part of my life in such a big way. I never imagined that it would bring so many amazing moments with it. Winning the Luschei Prize is definitely right up there with the best moments.’
Of Putuma’s collection, judge Bernardine Evaristo writes:
Everything about this poetry debut feels fresh and timely. Putuma, writing from a queer female perspective, has a liberated poetic voice that engages with politics, race, religion, relationships, sexuality, feminism and more. There is also risky formal innovation, emotional and intellectual complexity, biblical intertextuality and a stirring declamatory audibility.
The JRB’s own Contributing Editor Bongani Madondo had good things to say about the collection, too, back in the year of its first publication.
I read it twice and my breath skipped and heart did its ribcage beat-dance and ran off as though chased by wolves. The climax of it all sledgehammers you with disconcerting beauty.
Putuma’s book has gone through multiple printings since 2017, and has been translated into Spanish, with German and Danish translations forthcoming. The author was clearly pleased by the latest chapter in her book’s success:
Two other books were finalists for the award: Dami Ajayi’s A Woman’s Body Is a Country (Ouida Books), which Evaristo said ‘illuminates the slips between memory and desire, family, community, and place’, and Nick Makoha’s collection Kingdom of Gravity (Peepal Tree Press). Evaristo said the book featured an ‘assured poetic voice that is epic, majestic, timeless’.
It is the second year in a row that a book published by uHlanga has featured in the prizewinners for this award; Stephen Symons received an honourable mention in 2017 for his collection Questions for the Sea.