Project earns funding to study book distribution in Africa


University Communication, July 13, 2022

Project earns funding to study book distribution in Africa

Dawes’ African poetry book fund surpasses $1M in funding within last year

The African Poetry Book Fund at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln has earned a $343,750 grant from the Poetry Foundation to study poetry book distribution in Africa.

Kwame Dawes

The African Poetry Book Distribution Project, led by Kwame Dawes, George W. Holmes University Professor of English, will improve the understanding of poetry book distribution — examining bookseller networks, international trade, literary venues and programming and more — on a continent made up of multiple nations. The three-year project began this summer.

“APBF’s core goal is to find ways to advance African poetry in the world, and one of the critical ways to do so effectively is to appreciate the complex and multifaceted ways in which poetry and the publishing of poetry takes place,” said Dawes, who is also the Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner. “Central to the state of poetry in the world is the business of book distribution, and this is particularly critical in a continent like Africa, made up of so many different nation states with quite distinctive trade, distribution and tariff laws, and just as many approaches to book distribution and sale, especially when it comes to poetry.

“If all that we are able to do is come to have a more informed understanding of the state of poetry book distribution in Africa, we would have made a significant inroad into the work of advancing poetry on the continent. We expect to do more than this, and we are grateful for the insight and sophistication that is demonstrated by the Poetry Foundation in recognizing the critical need that will be addressed by the grant.”

The African Poetry Book Distribution Project will help the fund define its role in building and sustaining long-term partnerships with existing African publishers and book distributors and ensure the availability of titles internationally. From its 2012 inception, the African Poetry Book Fund has been committed to developing a robust publishing agenda in the United States, and ensuring that the published work is accessible to readers throughout Africa.

The fund, established in 2012 by Dawes, promotes and advances the development and publication of the poetic arts through its book series, contests, workshops, and seminars and through its collaborations with publishers, festivals, booking agents, colleges, universities, conferences and all other entities that share an interest in African poetry. Fund projects have included poetry prizes, book publishing, digital humanities research, and establishing local poetry libraries.

The African Poetry Book Fund was first supported by the generosity of Laura and Robert F.X. Sillerman, and since has been awarded grants from the Ford Foundation and the Academy of American Poets. With this latest funding, the fund has topped more than $1 million in grants in the past year. This grant follows a $750,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in August 2021 to expand the African Poetry Digital Portal, an online project of the fund.

African Poetry Book Fund publications include the “New-Generation African Poets Chapbooks Boxset Series,” produced in collaboration with Akashic Books, and full-length poetry books and anthologies under the African Poetry Book Series, published in collaboration with the University of Nebraska Press.

English University of Nebraska Press