South African poet Maneo Refiloe Mohale was recently named the winner of the African Poetry Book Fund’s 2020 Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry, for their collection Everything is a Deathly Flower (uHlanga Press).
The Glenna Luschei Prize is awarded annually to a book of poetry by an African writer published in the previous year. The winner receives $1000 (about R14,200).
The 2020 award was announced on 4 June. Award-winning poet Phillippa Yaa de Villiers, who judged the prize this year, said of the collection:
‘What is poetry but a manifesto of love, an invitation and an outpouring of struggle? As we roam the pages of the collection, we witness the love of land, of nature, of humanity; one is shown pain turned into raw beauty. The collection stood out because of the author’s commitment to the image, to the story and to language itself.
‘A gifted poet will, in this world of distractions, compel the reader to listen deeper, to filter out the verbosity of the market and the barrage of restrictions that humans place upon language, to find the voice of memory, a sound so close to silence.’
In Everything is a Deathly Flower, Mohale writes boldly and powerfully about their experience of sexual assault, and how they reconstructed their life afterwards.
In his review of the book for The JRB, in November 2019, Lidudumalingani wrote:
‘The collection, perfectly mapped and bound into thirty-one poems, is a tapestry on which Maneo dances with elegance, narrating, critiquing, lamenting, celebrating—and comforting, including comforting the reader. The poems are written with the tenderness and knowing of a sage nonagenarian who has seen the world under all shades of realities and, further, through all its fleeting and ugly beauties. […]
‘Maneo is only twenty-seven years old, and yet they command, not only language, but politics, emotions, in a way that very few writers do. The book is filled with sentences, sensibilities, that are molded in perfection.’
The African Poetry Book Fund, established by Laura and Robert FX Sillerman in partnership with the literary journal Prairie Schooner, was founded to ‘celebrate and cultivate the poetic arts of Africa’. The Glenna Luschei Prize, funded by literary philanthropist and poet Glenna Luschei and the only pan-African book prize of its kind, aims to promote African poetry written in English or in translation by recognising ‘a significant book published each year by an African poet’.