The world of boxing received a new champion and so did the continent’s poetry. The Brunel International African Poetry Prize, which is currently in its fifth year, announced the winner of the prize yesterday. In a press statement released on website it said:

Romeo Oriogun from Nigeria has been named winner of the 2017 Brunel International African Poetry Prize for his “beautiful and deeply passionate” writing on masculinity and desire in the face of LGBT criminalisation and persecution.

Unlike last year when the judges had to choose two winners, this year, “the judges were unanimous in their decision that among a shortlist of ten stunning new poets, selected from nearly 1,200 entries, Oriogun – who only begun writing three years ago – should receive the prize.”

Read: Four Nigerians shortlisted for £3,000 Brunel International African Poetry Prize

The judges said: “Romeo Oriogun is a hugely talented, outstanding, and urgent new voice in African poetry. His poetry is wide ranging but at its heart are deeply passionate, shocking, imaginative, complex and ultimately beautiful explorations of masculinity, sexuality and desire in a country that does not recognise LGBT rights. We wish him all the best for the future.”

The 2017 shortlist. Photo: africanpoetryprize.org

In a Facebook post, Romeo wrote:

“When Socrates called me to tell the news it felt unreal, I was just waking up. I thought it was a dream and I came online to see so much love coming my way. It has been a few fast hours, thanks to all who called, send messages, wrote beautiful posts. The future is here and it is beautiful too, life has never been fair to me but I see things changing”.

“Thanks for coming with me on this journey, all the poems I submitted were written on this platform, who dictates the means of your success? I say keep on working. Last year I commented on Gbenga Adesina’s post that he has given us the way to believe and today I’ve walked through that way. Thanks for the love, own your truth, your life, never dim your light for anybody, the journey continues and yes Mama, we made it, we made it,” the post reads.

In April last year, Romeo released a poetry chapbook with Praxis Magazine titled Burnt Men. Prof John L. Stanizzi in the foreword said, “This is poetry in which we are welcomed, in which we feel accepted, and although the ideas are often challenging and sometimes heartbreaking, what holds this collection together, and what ultimately embraces the reader, is the profound sense of humanity ascending from the pages.”

Read: The Caine is about the story, not the writer: On the Shortlisting of a former winner

The chapbook begins with the title poem:

A preacher said gay men are dead men.

I wake up to the smell of burnt men

In my veins

His latest poems were published in Enkare Review first issue. In the poem Exile Romeo wrote:

On my tongue there’s a hole,

That’s how I know language is a room

You fall into.

In the room filled with the bust

Of your fathers, I read a poem

Filled with doves searching for olives.

Romeo’s win has elicited numerous reactions on Facebook. Another Nigerian writer, Amatesiro Dore said, “So, so happy that you won from Nigeria, in Nigeria and based on your Nigerian experiences. This victory is for all of us and you deserve to win many more laurels. Congratulations, my brother!”

There has been a lot of talk of many writers winning international prizes coming from the diaspora. Romeo has definitely changed that story. We wish him the best in his literary career.