Athol Williams wins Sol Plaatje EU Poetry Award


22 October 2015

This year’s Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award has gone to Athol Williams for his poem Streetclass Diseases.

Portrait of a Mother and Indiscretion by Sindiswa Busku-Mathese was awarded second place, with Baleka, What do you Know by Jim Pascual Agustin coming in third place.

The winners were presented with their awards by the head judge and chairperson of the Jacana Literary Foundation, Mongane Wally Serote, and the EU ambassador designate, Marcus Cornaro, at a ceremony hosted by Poetry Africa on 17 October, in Durban.

The award

The award is handed out annually and is in its fifth year. It is named after South African journalist, linguist and writer Solomon (Sol) Tshekisho Plaatje (1876-1932) to recognise his life and vision as a social and political activist.

Poems that made it on to the long list were published in an anthology. “Like Plaatje’s works did in his time, these poems reveal the political and social attitudes of our time,” reads the Jacana website.

The works are written in numerous South African languages, including English, Afrikaans, Sepedi, Sesotho, Xitsonga and isiZulu.

Watch this to find out more about Plaatje:

Winner profile

Williams grew up in Mitchells Plain in Cape Town, but has lived in Johannesburg, Boston and London. He holds five degrees from local and international universities such as Harvard, the London School of Economics and Political Science, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of the Witwatersrand. He is currently reading political philosophy at Oxford University in the UK.

He said he loved to experiment and learn. “My poetry leads my pursuit of understanding just as imagination leads my efforts in social development,” Williams states on his website.

“My work seeks to explore new structural processes and social institutions that may put humanity on a path to greater harmony and I delve deeply into the prospects of a new (or renewed) human consciousness that might make us all evolve to live larger, fuller lives.”

He has published three collections of poems – Bumper Cars, Talking to a Tree and Heap of Stones – and two children’s books – Oaky, the Happy Tree and Oaky and the Sun.

“I have a passion for reading and education personally, and I recognise the vital role education plays in the pursuit of freedom and human development, hence my involvement in social change through education,” he said. “I co-founded Read to Rise, an NGO that promotes youth literacy.”

Watch this to learn more about Read to Rise:

The organisation offers children suitable reading material fitting for their age groups, in an attempt to instil a love of reading early on in life. reporter