Announcing the 2024 D.C. Poet Project Winner

At a culminating reading event at the Anacostia Public Library Sunday, May 4, Amuchechukwu Nwafor was crowned the 2024 DC Poet Project winner. A Washington-DC based writer, educator, and teaching artist, ‘Amuche’ is a first-generation born Black American whose poetry touches on the diaspora, mental health, and the female experience. As the winner of the DC Poet Project, Nwafor has received a book contract from Day Eight, which will publish a collection of her poetry this fall.

Read poems by Amuchechukwu Nwafor on the Mid-Atlantic Review here.

Image showing the announcement of the competition results Sunday May 4, 2024

Past winners of the DC Poet Project include Brandon Douglas, author of Dipped in Cerulean, Dominic McDonald, author of I’d Rather Be Called a Nerd, Susan Meehan, author of Talking to the Night, John Johnson, author of Love for Her, and Jenn Koiter, author of So Much of Everything.

The DC Poet Project is an annual open-to-all poetry competition that culminates in the awarding of a book contract. One finalist was selected from each of the preliminary-round poetry reading events held earlier this spring. Amuche read her poetry alongside fellow finalists Kiarra Patterson, Jeffrey Banks, and CanMan Tha Poet, prior to the audience vote that resulted in her selection as the winner.

Day Eight conducted an interview with the 2024 Poet Project winner to learn more about her.

How did you start writing?

Amuche Nwafor: I loved writing stories and reading when I was a small child. When I entered middle school, my school had a Creative Performing Arts Program. Along with band, choir, dance and theater, there was also a creative writing program. Already having a love for books and stories, I joined the program. While in the program I learned about playwriting, how to develop characters, fiction, and non-fiction writing. I also learned about poetry, poetic forms, devices, styles, and started to write my own poetry. Even at eleven years old, something about it felt very freeing and I have been writing and studying poetry ever since.

Are there writers that particularly inspire you?

AN: I am inspired by Jessica Care Moore, Gil Scott-Heron, Yesika Salgado, Teri Ellen Cross Davis, June Jordan, and Jill Scott because I love to sing and write poetry. I hope to one day release a poetry album featuring my singing! I also really admire all of the poets and writers in the DC poetry community who fill my life with experiences and art, and inspire me.

In your bio you note that you are a first-generation born Black American. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

AN: I was born in Livingston, NJ. I moved to Maryland with my mom and brother when I was three years old and grew up in Mt. Rainier, MD, right outside of Washington, D.C. Although I was born in the United States, my mother is from Grenada and my father is from Nigeria; the two of them met in New Jersey. My mother immigrated from the Caribbean to Brooklyn, NYC with my grandmother when she was 14.

You have described your poems as being like still life paintings. What does that mean to you?

AN: I took an art history class in college my sophomore year when I studied briefly at the University of Missouri. I love learning about the different types of art styles and how art styles changed through time. I love visual art. I love fine art. I love modern art. Each one of my poems convey their own distinct imagery, language, and message. I view each one as their own still life painting in the style of surrealism and I hope that my audience does the same.

Do you have an answer to the question: why do you write? 

AN: I believe that writing is a powerful tool for healing. I write like my life depends on it because it does! Writing has gotten me through the darkest of times and has helped me grow, heal and evolve. I encourage everyone I meet to write. Whether they choose to share their words or just write for themselves. Writing is such a personal tool that can be used to release heavy emotions, recognize cycles of trauma and abuse, and track personal progress. I hope that my writing, my voice, and my passion for self-expression, will inspire people to pick up a pen and set themselves free. Since 2017, I’ve been teaching poetry workshops – from K to 12 students to senior adults. Each of the students I have worked with inspire me to continue living in my passion and purpose. I hope that my poetry inspires them to push through tough times, to think outside of the box creatively, and to be their best selves daily.

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The 2024 Poet Project was curated by Regie Cabico, hosted by Aaron Holmes, and funded in part by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities and individual donors to Day Eight. Featured poets in the 2024 series included Courtney LeBlanc, Kim B Miller, Teri Cross Davis, C. Thomas, Micah Powell, Pi-anir the Poet, Holly Karapetkova, Shaquetta Nelson, John Johnson, Brandon Douglas, Rebecca Bishophall, Khadijah Ali-Coleman, Regie Cabico, Indran Amirthanayagam, and Pacyinz Lyfoung. To learn more about the 2024 DC Poet Project reading series events, click here.