Nigerian poet, Romeo Oriogun, has won the 2017 Brunel International African Poetry Prize.

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Among the shortlist of ten poets selected from nearly 1,200 entries, Oriogun earned the unanimous decision of the judges.

His entry was about “masculinity and desire in the face of LGBT criminalisation and persecution”.

Oriogun’s winning poems were Elegy for a Burnt Friend, The Origin of Butterflies, Remembrance, Denial, The Theory of Hatred, Invisible Man, and After A Visit To The Museum.

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“Romeo Oriogun is a hugely talented, outstanding, and urgent new voice in African poetry,” said the judges. “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.”

Oriogun, who started writing three years ago, was one of four Nigerian poets to reach this year’s shortlist.

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His poems have been featured in Brittle Paper, African Writer, Expound, and Praxis.

Oriogun said he writes about queer people because someone needs to champion their cause in these parts where it’s a crime to be different.

“Sometimes this is the price I pay for writing but it is better than keeping quiet. I know queer people may not be free to love openly in my lifetime but it is a journey and we are laying the stones for the future,” he said.

The Brunel poetry prize was last won by two Nigerians, Gbenga Adesina and Chekwube O. Danladi, who shared the honour in 2016.

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The poetry of the inaugural winner, Warsan Shire, was featured on Beyoncé Knowles’ ‘Lemonade’ album.

“African poetry is now undergoing a revolution with the publication of many brilliantly unique poets who are changing the literary landscape of the continent,” the judges said.

The £3,000 poetry prize is open to African poets who are yet to publish a full poetry collection.

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