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Tares Oburumu is a Nigerian poet. He is a two-time pushcart prize nominee and winner of the 2022 Sillerman prize for African poets. Tares is also the author of three slim poetry chapbooks. His works are published in some reputable online journals such as the African Writer, New Black Magazine, Kalahari Review, Icefloe Press, Agbowo, and many others.

Earlier in August this year, the African Poetry Book Fund wrote on its Twitter handle on behalf of its founding director Professor Kwame Dawes that “Origin of the Syma Species” has been selected as the winning manuscript of the 2022’s Sillerman Prize for African Poetry.

As winner of the Sillerman Prize, Tares will receive a USD 1, 000 award as well as book publication through the African Poetry Book Series by the University of Nebraska Press.

The judging panel for the Sillerman Prize consists of the African Poetry Book Fund’s Editorial Board, including Chris Abani, Gabeba Baderoon, Bernardine Evaristo, Aracelis Girmay, John Keene, Matthew Shenoda and Phillippa Yaa de Villiers, with Kwame Dawes, who also serves as director of the African Poetry Book Fund and heads the editorial board of Prairie Schooner’s.

Phillippa Yaa de Villiers, who is an award-winning South African writer and performance artist, praised the collection, saying, “ ‘origins of the syma species’ conjures an intimacy which draws the reader below the surface of the known world ‘where curiosity animates.’” Of the inspiration driving his work, Oburumu said: “The relative chaos we find in the origin of things is the beauty that binds us to our ancestral roots.

Some manuscripts that made it to the finalists are “Winged Witnesses” by Chisom Okafor of Nigeria and “My First Country Was My Mother” by Afaq of Darfur, Sudan who currently resides in Philadelphia, USA.

Tares who has been writing poetry for over a decade has written on his Facebook page that “I never like a great poet before now.” This great feat that he attained shows that whatever one can hold onto with a genuine passion and consistency will surely yield good results.

Tares is the tenth poet to win the annual Sillerman Prize, following Sherry Shenoda in 2021 for Mummy Eaters, Cheswayo Mphanza for The Rinehart Frames in 2020, and ‘Gbenga Adeoba in 2019 for Exodus.

The African Poetry Book Fund expressed their gratitude to all the poets who submitted their manuscripts for consideration for the Sillerman Prize.

The Sillerman Prize was established in 2013 and supported by philanthropists Laura Sillerman and the late Robert FX Sillerman. Over the years, the prize, in partnership with the University of Nebraska Press, has celebrated the work of emerging African poets from across the continent and the diaspora.

This win from Tares is a call for young Nigerian poets that the future is bright as long as they put much effort into writing and producing pieces of art that have good quality.

The 2023 Sillerman First Prize for African Poets will be open for submission of manuscripts by African poets who are yet to publish a full-length poetry collection from September 15 through December 1.

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