ABU Alumnus wins 2022 Derek Walcott Prize for Poetry

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A young ABU Zaria Alumnus and Mississippi State University English faculty member has won the third annual Derek Walcott Prize for Poetry, a prestigious prize presented to a living poet who is not a U.S. citizen for a full-length book of poems published in the previous year.

Saddiq Dzukogi, a Department of English assistant professor and author of “Your Crib, My Qibla” (University of Nebraska Press, 2021), won a $1,000 cash award from Arrowsmith Press, a reading at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre and a week-long residency at Derek Walcott’s home in either St. Lucia or in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, during the Walcott Festival this year.

Saddiq Dzukogi wins 2022 Derek Walcott Prize for Poetry
Saddiq Dzukogi (Photo by Grace Cockrell)

“Your Crib, My Qibla” interrogates loss, the death of a child, and a father’s pursuit of language able to articulate grief. In these poems, the language of memory functions as a space of mourning, connecting the dead with the world of the living.

Culminating in an imagined dialogue between the father and his deceased daughter in the intricate space of the family, the book explores grief, the fleeting nature of healing, and the constant obsession with memory as a language to reach the dead.

“It is an immense honor for my name to be associated with Derek Walcott in any way or form and for this book to be so recognized by the amazing Carolyn Forché, who selected it for the prize,” Dzukogi said. “I feel so seen and in this way, the memory and name of my daughter, who the book immortalizes, persists. I hope I can use this recognition as a door to something even greater.”

A native of Minna, Nigeria, Dzukogi said, “The book is about a father’s rebellion against death and its realities. It is an attempt to massage memory and imagination, to manifest both ethereal and physical experiences with a deceased child.”

“Your Crib, My Qibla” was named one of the 29 best poetry collections by Oprah Daily last year. The collection was shortlisted for the Nigerian Prize for Literature and a finalist for the Julie Suck Award. Dzukogi also is the author of the chapbook, “Inside the Flower Room” (Akashic Books, 2017), which was selected by Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani for the APBF New-Generation African Poets Chapbook Series. His poetry is featured in various magazines including Kenyon Review, Cincinnati Review, Poetry Magazine, and Prairie Schooner.

Dzukogi was a finalist for the 2017 Brunel International African Poetry Prize and a recipient of numerous fellowships and grants from the Nebraska Arts Council, Pen America, the Obsidian Foundation, and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, where he earned his Ph.D. in 2022 in English with a specialization in ethnic studies and creative writing. He earned his bachelor’s degree in mass communication in 2015 from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria.

Dzukogi joined MSU’s faculty this fall and currently teaches Introduction to Creative Writing and the Craft of Poetry.

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Chila Andrew Aondofa

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