Fiction writer and poet, Jekwu Anyaegbuna has won the 2023 Poetry London Prize.
His entry “Unusual Inmates” was announced in October 2023, by the organisers at a ceremony that held at the Southbank Centre in London.
The single poem addresses political situation as it pertains to the 2023 general election in Nigeria and is described by the organisers as “a poem for our times”.
“Sometimes, I write some rubbish. And then someone tells me, ‘Oh, that your rubbish is actually some creative excellence.’ I thank Poetry London for validating my work, for honouring my creative weirdness.”
Jekwu Anyaegbuna who is a researcher at the University of East Anglia, UK, also paid tribute to his school for providing him with the conducive environment which enabled him to write the award-winning poem.
He further stated:
“I would also like to thank the University of East Anglia for creating for me the most beautiful atmosphere that made it possible for me to write this poem.”
Anyaegbuna is a winner of many literary prizes including the Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Africa. He graduated with an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia, where he has also been a fully-funded researcher and an Associate Tutor in the School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing. He is a fiction fellow at the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation for Creative Writing in Bulgaria. He was shortlisted for the 2022 White Review Short Story Prize, and his writing has been published in Granta, The Massachusetts Review, Transition, and Prairie Schooner, among other publications.
On receiving the news of the award earlier on an elated Anyaegbuna had said:
“I am delightfully shocked. This appears surreal. It feels unbelievable. I submitted my poem with all the pessimism I could summon up. I didn’t even give myself a chance to fantasize about winning. I only wanted to take part, just to participate and leave. I didn’t even imagine that my poem was a good one, let alone a prize-winning one.”
The prize is awarded by Poetry London, a top-rated poetry journal funded by the Arts Council England. Poetry London’s artistic vision is based on the understanding that “the best poetry” includes the broadest variety of styles and subjects, and that the very best of that poetry often acts as an unacknowledged catalyst for change. Poetry London is committed to supporting, empowering, and uplifting racially and ethnically marginalized writers.
At the award night the Reviews Editor of Poetry London, Isabelle Baafi, said Anyeagbuna’s winning poem was chosen from over four thousand poems, adding that it was a poem that kept the judges guessing.