Brunel African Poetry Prize (and all the things I can do with $3000)

The first boy to kiss your mother later raped women

when the war broke out. She remembers hearing this
from your uncle, then going to your bedroom and lying
down on the floor. You were at school.

Your mother was sixteen when he first kissed her.
She held her breath for so long that she blacked out.
On waking she found her dress was wet and sticking
to her stomach, half moons bitten into her thighs.

That same evening she visited a friend, a girl
who fermented wine illegally in her bedroom.
When your mother confessed I’ve never been touched
like that before, the friend laughed, mouth bloody with grapes,
then plunged a hand between your mother’s legs.

Last week, she saw him driving the number 18 bus,
his cheek a swollen drumlin, a vine scar dragging itself
across his mouth. You were with her, holding a bag
of dates to your chest, heard her let out a deep moan
when she saw how much you looked like him.


Your Mother’s first kiss is a poem by Warsan Shire, the 2012 winner of the Brunel University African Poetry Prize.

The $3,000 Brunel University African Poetry Prize is awarded to an African poet for a selection

of poems. The prize which is now in its second year and is sponsored by Brunel University and

partnered by Commonwealth Writers is aimed at the development, celebration and promotion of

poems from Africa.

The Brunel University African Poetry Prize is open to anyone who was born in Africa, is

a national of an African country or whose parents are African. Exactly ten poems must be

submitted in order to be eligible for this prize.

Bernardine Evaristo, award-winning British-Nigerian writer, initiated the prize in 2012.

Bernardine teaches creative writing at Brunel University, is the author of the critically acclaimed

Mr. Loverman (Penguin, 2013) and a 2013 judge for the Golden Baobab Prizes for African

children’s literature. On the importance of a prize exclusively or African poetry, Bernardine


“I have judged several prizes in the past few years, including chairing the Caine Prize for

African Fiction in 2012, an award that has revitalised the fortunes of fiction from Africa since its

inception in 1999. It became clear to me that poetry from the continent could also do with a prize

to draw attention to it and to encourage a new generation of poets who might one day become

an international presence. African poets are rarely published in Britain. I hope this prize will

introduce exciting new poets to Britain’s poetry editors.”

Apart from the $3,000 cash prize, winners of the Brunel University African Poetry Prize will

have some of their poems published by Prairie Schooner, one of the leading literary magazines

in the USA and Wasafiri, the leading British journal of international writing. The first winner of

the prize was Somali poet, Warsan Shire, who describes the impact of the prize on her writing


“Since winning the prize I have travelled to six different countries to teach poetry and

read my work; I’ve had interest from different literary agents and publishing houses; and

I was appointed the first Young Poet Laureate for London, definitely sure that the last one

wouldn’t have happened had I not won the prize. I have a chapbook due out in America and

small collections of my poems translated and published in Estonian and Danish.”

The prize is currently open for entries and will close on November 30th

announced on 28th

For more information on the Brunel University African Poetry Prize, visit their website: http://

April, 2014.


This post is via Nanama Acheampong, Programs Officer of the Golden Baobab Prize.

She says y’all endowed with the gift of words should frigging submit to the prize 🙂


So, who’s submitting? Who’s planning on winning? And most importantly, who’s splitting the money with me?