Gazan Poet Mosab Abu Toha Wins Derek Walcott Prize for ‘Things You May Find Hidden in My Ear’

NOVEMBER 3, 2023 — Arrowsmith Press, in conjunction with Boston Playwrights’ Theatre and The Walcott Festival yesterday announced the winner of the third annual Derek Walcott Prize for Poetry: Mosab Abu Toha’s Things You May Find Hidden in My Ear. The 2022 winner was selected by author Canisia Lubrin from a shortlist of twelve finalists, which also included Maya Abu al-Hayyat’s You Can Be the Last Leaf, translated by Fady Joudah.

The annual prize, which includes a $2,000 cash award, goes to a poetry collection published in English by a writer who is not a citizen of the United States.

Publisher City Lights announced the win along with an update about the poet, who is currently at the Jalablia refugee camp that has recently been a target of Israeli bombardment:

Prize judge Canisia Lubrin wrote of the book:

Here is a book which revels at an impossible pitch, the potent will to live heart-first in confrontation with life under brutal siege. Things You May Find Hidden in My Ear is a supertonic glossary of sorrows so extreme it bends the brace of language into fortifying, never-naïve, elegy. Toha’s meticulous, and often brief, lines thread his own breathing witness into a poetry of mighty resolve, insisting poetry itself be worthy of a Palestinian lament. Toha insists on these songs, holding each by their own powerful weight and bond, into this rippling of a future out beyond the page. This is a work of great restraint and abundant attention presented as always waiting in the routine arrangements of the day-to-day. Such grace and understanding, daring because necessary, necessary because how powerful it is to hear a voice cut so sharply through today. So haunting, so searing, and above all, so lit by Mosab Abu Toha’s vibrant—what else to call it?—love.

The prize was launched in 2019; previous winners include Saddiq Dzukogi’s Your Crib, My Qibla and 2022 judge Canisia Lubrin for The Dyzgraphxst.

To learn more about this book, visit the City Lights website.

Submissions for the 2023 Walcott Prize are now open. Interested publishers can submit through the Arrowsmith Press website.