Global Poetry Prize, Africa Winner: Map by Abigail Mengesha

We’re so excited to share this poem by Abigail Mengesha, the 2022 Global Poetry Prize winner for the region of Africa. About Abigail’s poem, the judge Saddiq Dzukogi writes, “‘Map’ is a striking poem that presents a poignant and thought-provoking commentary on the impact of colonization and the arbitrary nature of borders. The language employed is sparse yet evocative, and the imagery is particularly powerful in conveying the way colonization employ the use of violence to silence and erase cultures, and traditions of the subjugated.”



i.e., land turned napkin

i.e., the pen taking stock of what kings care to own

i.e., the Nile, the most dangerous and generous body of nature in the entire 
       continent, becomes the blue line asking permission from black lines 
       to keep flowing

i.e., even water is disaster here

i.e., how easily the man-made smudge off

i.e., when I asked my sister what shaped the right-side of Ethiopia like a 
       beak, she answered, “the crisis of Europeans”

i.e., the drawing of a line tends to be—if not the final—the original of 

i.e., it’s possible for a nation to lose its ears in a few months

i.e., red on paper, red on the fields



Abigail Mengesha

A writer and editor from Addis Ababa, Abigail Mengesha is a recipient of the George Harmon Coxe Award for Poetry and is currently a Jan Gabrial Fellow at New York University, where she is an MFA candidate in Poetry and a first-year writing instructor.

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