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Nick Makoha makes shortlist for the Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection

We are thrilled to announce that the Forward Prize judges have selected Nick Makoha’s Kingdom of Gravity (Peepal Tree Press) for the 2017 Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection!

Makoha’s graceful and timely poems demonstrate the power of the best literature to speak of difficult things in a way that enlightens, not merely horrifies. The care in the making and shaping of the poems bears witness to the evident fact that, for Nick Makoha, poetry became ‘a sanctuary from which I can repair the ruins’.

In narrative terms, the collection reveals the lived truth of Uganda’s civil war, but Makoha’s work does not follow any kind of prescription for trauma narratives. At their heart is an unwavering curiosity about how people behave in extreme situations, and what this reveals about our common human capacities to indulge grandiose visions, betray our own beliefs, seek revenge and even kill.

Peepal Tree’s Managing Editor, Jeremy Poynting said ‘We are delighted that the Forward judges have recognised the outstanding quality of Nick’s poems. Peepal Tree’s associate poetry editor, Kwame Dawes and I had no hesitation in snapping up this breathtakingly ambitious and beautiful collection. This year’s shortlist for the Felix Dennis Prize is particularly strong, and we are honoured to have one of our poets in such fine company.

The collection has received glowing praise from leading African American poet Terrance Hayes, who says “Nick Makoha's poems animate in the space between story and song. His sentences unwind full of ‘axe heads, shanks, short rope, blades, some poison and all its animal understanding.’ His imagery and insights are strung along an electrified syntax. He writes, ‘You will try to make sense of the terrain, its limits on reality, its secondary sounds – the crickets speaking pure rhetoric.’ I find the terrains of his thinking and feeling breathtaking. Kingdom Of Gravity is truly an amazing debut.”

The title poem, ‘Kingdom of Gravity’ is one of three poems that won Makoha a 2015 Brunel University African Poetry Prize. 

Peepal Tree Press is no stranger to Forward Prize success. In 1995 the prize was won by Kwame Dawes with his first collection of poems, Progeny of Air, and the 2016 Felix Dennis Prize was won by Tiphanie Yanique for Wife. Both Loretta Collins Klobah (The Twelve Foot Neon Woman) and Christian Campbell (Running the Dusk) have both made previous shortlists.

Kingdom of Gravity is available from all your usual booksellers, or order direct from Peepal Tree Press, so Nick Makoha gets higher royalties, and Peepal Tree has more in the pot to bring you other great books like this one!

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