The four books shortlisted for the Ingrid Jonker Prize for English Poetry have been announced.
The prize, one of South Africa’s most prestigious literary awards, is alternately awarded on an annual basis to a debut volume of poetry in Afrikaans or English, the two languages in which Ingrid Jonker herself wrote.
This year’s award is for volumes published in English in 2018 and 2019. Eleven entries were received by the committee.
Three of the four shortlisted collections are published by uHlanga Press.
2020 Ingrid Jonker Prize shortlist
- All the Places by Musawenkosi Khanyile (uHlanga Press, 2019)
- Everything is a Deathly Flower by Maneo Mohale (uHlanga Press, 2019)
- Skeptical Erections by Mxolisi Dolla Sapeta (Deep South, 2019)
- Zikr by Saaleha Idrees Bamjee (uHlanga Press, 2018)
The winner will be announced on Monday, 13 July, and will receive R10,000 prize money.
According to the rules of the prize the judges have to be published poets, since it is a prize from poets to poets. This year the judges were Vonani Bila, Wendy Woodward and Sindiswa Busuku.
Ronel de Goede convenes the Ingrid Jonker Committee. Finuala Dowling is the convenor of the English prize. The other committee members are Vincent Oliphant, Kobus Moolman and Marius Crous. Former chairperson Danie Marais acts as advisor to the committee.
About the shortlist
All the Places by Musawenkosi Khanyile
All the places he goes to
remind him of where he comes from.
He cannot escape his background; it’s always with him.
Like now, seated at a long shiny table in a hotel
with colleagues who overlook his township English
and laugh kindly at his jokes.
He cannot look at his sparkling fork and knife
without thinking of holidays spent at his father’s birthplace
gathered around a huge bowl of maas with his cousins,
digging in with his hands.
In his moving debut collection, Musawenkosi Khanyile speaks for the heartache, perseverance and untriumphant triumph of township life. Through snapshots and memories of family and community, centred around the boy- and young manhood of a single narrator, All The Places is a rare and compelling poetic Bildungsroman, with the ambition and scope of a novel, paired with (and pared down to) minimalist and clear-eyed verse.
Concurrently original and quintessentially South African, these poems mark Khanyile out as a skilled stylist and storyteller—a frank and important new voice in South African literature.
Musawenkosi Khanyile was born in 1991 and raised in Nseleni. He holds a Masters in Clinical Psychology from the University of Zululand, and a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of the Western Cape. His first published poems appeared in an uHlanga magazine released in 2014. He currently lives in Cape Town. This is his first book.
Everything is a Deathly Flower by Maneo Mohale
are you still there?
take a second, now.
In one of the most anticipated debut collections of recent years, Maneo Mohale reckons boldly with the experience of—and the reconstruction of a life after—a sexual assault.
Mohale’s unapologetic and disarming voice carries through a budding and blooming garden of poetics, rooted in a contemporary southern African tradition, but springing forth in queer and radical new directions. Indeed, this is a work encompassing the full, often contradictory, and seldom complete process of healing: where relations must be chosen as well as made; where time becomes non-linear and language insufficient; where nothing is what it seems, yet everything is what it is.
Maneo Mohale was born in 1992 in Benoni. Their work has appeared in Jalada, Prufrock, the New York Times, the Mail & Guardian, spectrum.za, and others. They are a 2016 Bitch Media Global Feminism Fellow, and have been longlisted twice for the Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award.
After living in Canada for five years, they now live in Johannesburg, where they work as an editor and writer. This is their first book.
Skeptical Erections by Mxolisi Dolla Sapeta
Skeptical Erections is a book of startling visual and verbal imagination. In his poems Sapeta describes the deception and self-loathing prevalent in the people he encounters in his world, including (or perhaps especially) himself. Despite their distortions, however, the characters who come alive in these poems are depicted with respect and compassion.
Mxolisi Dolla Sapeta, born 1967, is a full time painter, sculptor, poet, and art teacher, who lives in New Brighton, Port Elizabeth. His work has been widely exhibited in South Africa and overseas. Sapeta taught art for six years at Port Elizabeth College, and now runs art classes in local schools. In 2016 he completed an MA in Creative Writing at Rhodes University.
Zikr by Saaleha Idrees Bamjee
are not big enough
to grasp prayer,
my tongue not loose enough
to utter them.
To be resolute in faith—in God, in oneself—in times of grief and disappointment. To unapologetically assert one’s woman- and personhood in a society that attempts to devalue both. To seek hidden parts of yourself, both new and forgotten, through the memories and words of other people.
In Zikr’s beguilingly measured and covertly powerful poems, Saaleha Idrees Bamjee achieves these often difficult tasks. In doing so, Bamjee introduces new idioms and understandings of Muslim identity to South African poetry —yet not through manifesto, nor outright polemic. This is a collection of fine metaphors, concrete turns of phrase, and a refreshing specificity of image, place, and self.
Saaleha Idrees Bamjee, born in 1983, is a photographer and writer based in Johannesburg. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Rhodes University and is the winner of the 2014 Writivism Short Story Prize. Zikr is her first collection of poems.