Featured writer: Otoniya Juliane Okot Bitek
In celebration of #BlackHistoryMonth, I'm featuring a BIPOC writer for every day of February. And as a special treat for subscribers to my newsletter, every week one lucky reader will win a copy of a book from each of that week's seven featured writers. This week's draw will be announced right here on the blog. Not a subscriber yet? Scroll to the bottom of this page, and sign up!
I first met Otoniya Juliane Okot Bitek when she presented a few years ago at the Surrey International Writers' Conference, and have been a fan since then. So last night, when I had a chance to listen to both she and Chantal Gibson read their work via a Word Vancouver event, I jumped on it. You might remember from this week's earlier feature on Chantal that the work of both these writers makes up the exhibition titled un/settled, currently to be found on the walls of the SFU library, on the corner of Hastings and Richards in downtown Vancouver. Last night's readings and discussion of the stories behind the exhibition were so fun and enlightening. [One excellent result of this terrible pandemic is the chance to attend readings like this from home. Even online, there's nothing like a little laughter and poetry in the evening to drive away pandemic bleakness.]
Otoniya's work has been nominated for many awards and appears online and in literary magazines including The Capilano Review, Room, Arc, Whetstone and many more. Her book, 100 DAYS contains poetry driven by pain and memories of the Rwandan genocide, drawing on experiences of her own family's displacement. Short, sharp and stark, her imagery in these poems still resonates with evocative beauty and power.
This weekend I'll draw the name of a lucky newsletter subscriber, who will win a copy of Otoniya's moving poetry book, along with books from Alisha Rai, Alyssa Cole, Chantal Gibson and three others. Make sure you're signed up for my newsletter at kcdyer.com and watch for new feature writers every day in February!