Nadra Mabrouk & Jamila Osman Share African Poetry Prize

The winners of the 7th Brunel International African Poetry Prize 2019 is shared by two talented poets, the Egyptian Nadra Mabrouk and the Somali Jamila Osman. It is a major prize of £3000 that was founded in 2012 by the Nigerian-British poet and novelist Bernardine Evaristo. The prize is aimed at the development, celebration and promotion of poetry from Africa. The Prize is sponsored by Brunel University London.

The competition is open to African poets worldwide who have not yet published a full poetry collection. Each poet has to submit 10 poems in order to be qualified. This year, there were over 1000 entries and the judges decided to award the prize to the two poets they considered the most outstanding, in keeping with the project of supporting multiple voices from the African continent.

Who are they?

Nadra Mabrouk is a poet from Cairo, Egypt. She is the author of “How Things Tasted When We Were Young,” published in 2016.  Her work has appeared/ is forthcoming in POETRY, RHINO, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, among others. Her work is also forthcoming in The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 3: Halal If You Hear Me (Haymarket Books, 2019). She has been recognized as a finalist for the 2017 Brett Elizabeth Jenkins Poetry Prize. Currently, she is a content intern for The Academy of American Poets, and is an MFA candidate at New York University.

Jamila Osman is a writer and educator living in Portland, Oregon. Her work talks about a broad range of issues, ranging from the tension between place and identity, to immigration and border justice, to education and race. Her poems and essays have appeared in a great number of literary and news publications, including Al Jazeera, Boaat Press, Catapult, and Teen Vogue.

Osman is currently working on a memoir chronicling her parents’ displacement from Somalia, and the death of her sister Ayan in 2014. It is a meditation on the way trauma and memory are passed on across geography and between generations.

The judges’ commentary

The judges were the poets Leila Chatti, Phillippaa Yaa de Villers, and Matthew Shenoda. Here are their comments on the 2019 winners:

“In the work of Nadra Mabrouk lines fold into lines and teach us the alchemy of presence and history. Hers is a poetry often seeking the subtle moments that thread our humanity together through a celebration of the lucid and quotidian. Mabrouk’s ability to make music in celebration of the pure joys of language is a restorative salve in contemporary poetry. Hers is a voice that will pull the reader into and outside of themselves.”

“In Jamila Osman’s poetry the reader is introduced to a poet whose cadence and craft come together like the fine edge of a knife. Osman’s detailed view of memory both personal and collective create a space for poems that are dipped in diasporic ink and carry a trajectory forever rooted in her home country of Somalia. Jamila Osman is a poet of allegorical beauty and someone for whom we should all be delighted to read more of in the future.”

We hope to hear more of them!