shailja-patel2-kenyaShailja Patel (Kenya)

Internationally acclaimed Kenyan poet Shailja Patel was trained as a political scientist and accountant. She honed her poetic skills in performances that have received standing ovations on four continents.


Her US publishing debut, Migritude (2010), based on her celebrated one-woman show, went to number one on Amazon's bestsellers in Asian Poetry, and was also a Seattle Times bestseller - extremely rare for a poetry collection. An earlier Italian version of Migritude was shortlisted for the prestigious Camaiore Prize. The late Dennis Brutus described Patel’s debut as “A work of unwavering moral conscience; a battle cry for justice, expressed through a poetic talent that deserves a global audience.”


Patel has been African Guest Writer at Sweden's Nordic Africa Institute and poet-in-residence at the Tallberg Forum, Sweden’s alternative to Davos. She has appeared on the BBC World Service, NPR and Al-Jazeera.

With her work translated into 15 languages, Patel’s honours include a Sundance Theatre Fellowship, a Creation Fund Award from the National Performance Network, the Fanny-Ann Eddy Poetry Award from IRN-Africa, the Voices of Our Nations Poetry Award, a Lambda Slam Championship and the Outwrite Poetry Prize.


A human rights activist at heart, Patel is a founding member of Kenyans For Peace, Truth and Justice (KPTJ), a civil society coalition which works for an equitable democracy in Kenya. The KPTJ welcomed this year, the ruling by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, to issue summonses against the six persons believed to bear the greatest responsibility in the post-election violence in Kenya between December 2007 and January 2008.


In 2011, the African Women's Development Fund named Patel one of Fifty Inspirational African Feminists for the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day.


Shailja Patel is the Poetry Africa Letters to Dennis poet for 2011.


Visit her at