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First British poet wins International Dylan Thomas Prize

Kayo Chingonyi won the award for his debut poetry collection Kumakanda.

Zambian-born poet Kayo Chingonyi has been announced as the winner of this year’s International Dylan Thomas Prize.

He collected the £30,000 award, which celebrates the best literary work published in the English language by an author aged 39 and under, for his debut collection of poetry Kumakanda – which explores the rites of passage boys go through to become men.

The poetry explores black masculinity, from the everyday machismo performed by his peers to the unexpected tenderness found within his community.

The 31-year-old is the first British poet to win the prize and the second poet ever.

Actor and Swansea University fellow Michael Sheen and Dylan Thomas’ granddaughter Hannah Ellis announced his win at a ceremony at Swansea University’s Great Hall

Chingonyi beat competition from First Love by British novelist Gwendoline Riley, Sally Rooney’s Conversations With Friends, Carmen Maria Machado’s short story collection Her Body & Other Parties, debut American novelist Emily Ruskovich’s Idaho and Gabriel Tallent’s My Absolute Darling.

This year marks the 10th edition of the Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize, and will commemorate 65 years since the death of the Welsh writer.


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Professor Dai Smith of Swansea University, chair of the judges, said: ““Kayo Chingonyi has an original and distinctive voice and this collection, mature and moving, shows a young poet mastering form in various ways to reveal content which is both personal and immensely relevant to the social dilemmas of Britain today.”

Sheen added: “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.”