Otoniya Juliane Okot Bitek is an Acholi poet. Her collection 100 Days, a book of poetry that reflects on the meaning of memory two decades after the Rwanda genocide, was nominated for several prizes including the BC Book Prize, the Pat Lowther Award, the Alberta Book Awards and the Canadian Authors Award for Poetry. It won the IndieFab Book of the Year Award for poetry and the Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry. “What makes this collection such a pleasure to read,” says a Huffington Post review, “is that it’s laced with moments of such grace that you have to pause and re-read the lines again in order to reflect upon each phrase….a masterpiece of uncommon splendour and Juliane Okot Bitek is a virtuoso performing at the height of her powers.” Otoniya’s poem “Migration: Salt Stories” was shortlisted for the National Magazine Awards for Poetry, and “Gauntlet” was longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize.
Her work has been published widely in publications such as Event, The Capilano Review, Room, and Arc, and anthologized in Love Me True: Writers Reflect on the Ups, Downs, Ins & Outs of Marriage, and Transition: Writing Black Canadas, amongst others. Her newest poetry collection, Song and Dread, offers COVID meditations rife with the paradoxical forces of boredom and intensity. The poems remind us of community, connectedness, and the ways the strange can become normalized when there is no other option. Otoniya holds an MA in English, a BFA in Creative Writing, and a PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies from UBC. She has been a Poetry Ambassador for the City of Vancouver, the Ellen and Warren Tallman Writer-in-Residence in the English Department at Simon Fraser University, and a Jack and Doris Shadbolt Fellow. She is currently an assistant professor of Black Creativity, English, and Creative Writing at Queen’s University.
Otoniya’s appearance is supported by Author Patron Judith Brown.
Appearing in 22. The Black Experience in Kingston