[The JRB Daily] Jacques Coetzee wins 2022 Ingrid Jonker Prize for debut poetry for ‘delicate, deeply felt’ collection An Illuminated Darkness

Jacques Coetzee has been awarded the 2022 Ingrid Jonker Prize for English Poetry for his debut collection An Illuminated Darkness, published by uHlanga Press.  

The prize 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 2020 and 2021. The winner receives a cash prize dependant on the interest accumulated in an account originally established for this purpose.

This year’s judges were Malika Ndlovu, Ken Barris and Arja Salafranca. Judges of the Ingrid Jonker prize are unaware of one another’s identities until judging is complete.

One of the judges praised the meditative tone of An Illuminated Darkness and pointed out that Coetzee ‘does not strive for technical effects, but seems more concerned to express delicate, deeply felt intangibles of life, silence, death, love—often in the context of blindness and the pain and anger, however sublimated, that goes with it’.

Another judge observed that the poet ‘writes with a musician’s ear and heart’s depths of listening that consciously unfolds the lines of the poems, particularly the shifts in rhythm’.

Twelve entries were received for the 2022 prize. The other works shortlisted were Yellow Shade by Dimakatso Sedite and between the apple and the bite by Sue Woodward.

Yellow Shade, published by Deep South, was hailed by the judges as ‘a welcomed contribution to the contemporary tide of Black women publishing new work’.  

between the apple and the bite was described as ‘an exploration of the experience of women through the personas of mythical and historical figures, or an intersection of both’, ‘a feminist take on “inconvenient or disobedient” women through the ages’. The three-structured collection was hailed for its ‘skilful thematic weavings throughout and the grounding footnotes, making for a refreshing and informative read’.

Marius Crous is the convenor of the Ingrid Jonker committee. The other committee members are Sally-Ann Murray, Jolyn Phillips, Vincent Oliphant and Brian Walter.

The 2020 Ingrid Jonker Prize winner was Saaleha Idrees Bamjee, for her collection Zikr.

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