Jack Mapanje is a poet, linguist, editor and human rights activist. He received the 1988 Rotterdam Poetry International Award for his first book of poems, Chameleons and Gods (1981) and the USA’s Fonlon-Nichols Award for his contribution to poetry and human rights. His latest collection, Beasts of Nalunga (Bloodaxe, 2007), was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection.
Jack Mapanje was head of the Department of English at the University of Malawi when the Malawi authorities arrested him in 1987 after his first book of poems had been banned, and he was released in 1991 after spending three years, seven months and sixteen days in prison, following an international outcry against his incarceration. He has since published four poetry books, The Chattering Wagtails of Mikuyu Prison (1993), Skipping Without Ropes(Bloodaxe, 1998), The Last of the Sweet Bananas: New & Selected Poems (Bloodaxe, 2004) and Beasts of Nalunga(Bloodaxe, 2007), as well as three anthologies, Oral Poetry from Africa (1983), Summer Fires: New Poetry of Africa(1983) and The African Writers’ Handbook (1999); and he edited the acclaimed Gathering Seaweed: African Prison Writing(2002).
Mapanje has held residences in the Netherlands, the Republic of Ireland and throughout Britain, including two years with the Wordsworth Trust at Dove Cottage in Cumbria. He lives in exile in York with his family, and is currently a visiting professor in the faculty of art at York St John University.