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Chingonyi wins £30k Dylan Thomas Prize

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Arts Education Literature

Zambian-born British poet Kayo Chingonyi has won the £30,000 Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize for his debut collection Kumukanda (Chatto).

Awarded for the best literary work published in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under, the prize celebrates the international world of fiction in all its forms including poetry, novels, short stories and drama.

Chingonyi’s Kumukanda explores black masculinity and rites of passage for young black men in Britain, and is a “bold exploration” of what it means to be black, male and British today. An interview The Bookseller conducted with Chingonyi about his work can be read here.

BAFTA-award winning actor and Swansea University fellow Michael Sheen and Dylan Thomas’ granddaughter Hannah Ellis announced Chingonyi as the winner of the award at a ceremony held at Swansea University.

Sheen said: “I’d like to congratulate Kayo Chingonyi for winning the 10th Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize, for his debut collection of poetry Kumukanda, a stunning and hugely culturally relevant collection of poems that keenly explore black culture, masculinity and identity in Britain today. Having grown up near Swansea, I feel a very strong connection with Wales’ cultural heritage, and it is truly an honour for me to present an award that brings the best and most exciting young literary talent from around the world to Wales.

“I know first-hand how essential exposure to the written word can be for young minds, and I admire the Dylan Thomas Prize for continuing Thomas’ incredible literary legacy and inspiring the next generation of writers and creators from Wales and beyond. With this year marking the 10th anniversary of the prize, as well as the 65th anniversary of Thomas’ death, there is no better time to celebrate Dylan’s legacy and the wonder of the written word.”

Chingonyi beat off competition from a strong shortlist which included Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends (Faber), Emily Ruskovich’s Idaho (Chatto), Gabriel Tallent’s My Absolute Darling (Fourth Estate), Carmen Maria Machado’s debut short story collection Her Body & Other Parties (Serpent’s Tail), and British novelist Gwendoline Riley’s First Love (Granta).

2018 marks the 10th edition of The Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize, named after Wales’ most lauded writer, Swansea-born Dylan Thomas who died 65 years ago this year, aged just 39 years old.

Previous winners include Max Porter’s Grief Is The Thing With Feathers (Faber) in 2016, Joshua Ferris’ To Rise Again at a Decent Hour (Penguin) in 2014, and Fiona McFarlane’s collection of short stores,The High Places (Sceptre), most recently in 2017.

Chaired by Professor Dai Smith CBE, this year’s judging panel also featured founder and director of the Jaipur Literature Festival, Namita Gokhale; winner of the inaugural International Dylan Thomas Prize novelist and playwright, Rachel Trezise; poet, translator, and scholar, Professor Kurt Heinzelman; and author and founder of London Short Story Festival, Paul McVeigh.

You can read our Q&A with the winner here.

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