Entries open today for the Somali Poetry Awards, an annual “Oscars” of Somali poetry organized by the Home of Somali Poetry initiative (Hoyga Maansada Soomaaliyeed) with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The Awards are open to anyone writing in Somali and aim to recognize the very best creative talent across three categories: Poet of the Year, UNDP Woman Poet of the Year and Youth Poet of the Year (for poets under the age of 25).

Poetry can be entered through the Home of Somali Poetry website until midnight 21 October. This year’s judges are leading and upcoming poets including Ahmed F. Ali (Idaajaa), Osman Abdullahi Guure, Mohamud Haji Mohamed (Tarash), Asha Mohamud Yusuf (Asha-luul) and Hawa Jama Abdi.

There will be a US$2,000 prize for the Poet of the Year and a US$1,000 prize for the Youth Poet of the Year. The UNDP Woman Poet of the Year will win a US$1,500 commission to write six poems on issues affecting women in Somalia.

“Women are too often ignored – but you can’t ignore the beautiful poetry we produce, said Awards judge and leading poet, Asha Mohamud Yusuf. “Whether we’re talking about life, justice, family or our dreams, women’s poetry can inspire and bring attention to issues that must be addressed if we are to create a society where everyone can flourish.”

“We Somalis have so much to contribute to the world and our poetry is top of the list, so I encourage everyone, young and old, to enter the Awards,” said Abwaan Idaaja, whose instruction video on how to enter can be seen on the Home of Somali Poetry website.

The official launching ceremony takes place today at the Aljazeera hotel in Mogadishu and winners will be announced at a ceremony in Mogadishu on 21 November, with live performances of the winning poetry and appearances from celebrity guests.

UNDP-funded research shows that women from all backgrounds want their voices to be heard so we are delighted to support the Somali Poetry Awards and sponsor the Woman Poet of the Year category,” said UNDP Somalia Resident Representative, Jocelyn Mason. “There are so many talented women writing in Somali; I hope we can help amplify their voices as they express their views and aspirations and push for greater rights and better protections for Somali women.”

The Awards are the latest activity from the Home of Somali Poetry initiative, which is being supported by UNDP to promote Somali poetry, women’s rights and peacebuilding.

Earlier this year, the Home of Somali Poetry launched its website (www.hoygamaansada.com) , which hosts a growing Somali Poetry Archive to preserve the classics and showcase new work from a fresh generation of poets, as well as an online magazine for poetry-related articles, interviews with poets, live performances, learning resources and more. The initiative will continue to organize special events, as well as commissioning new work and organizing live performances and cultural exchanges.


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