Landlocked was a winner in the 2015/16 Poetry Business Book and Pamphlet Competition, judged by Billy Collins.
John Eppel was raised in Zimbabwe, where he still lives, teaching English at Christian Brothers College in Bulawayo. His first novel, D G G Berry’s The Great North Road, won the M-Net prize and was listed in the Weekly Mail & Guardian as one of the best 20 South African books in English published between 1948 and 1994. His second, Hatchings, was chosen by the Times Literary Supplement as one of the most significant books to have come out of Africa. His other novels are The Giraffe Man, The Curse of the Ripe Tomato, The Holy Innocents, Absent: The English Teacher and Traffickings.
John’s poetry collections include Spoils of War, which won the Ingrid Jonker prize, Sonata for Matabeleland, Selected Poems: 1965 – 1995, and Songs My Country Taught Me.
His short stories and poems have appeared in many anthologies, journals and websites, including six poems in the Penguin Anthology of South African Poetry. His poem, ‘Jasmine’ was chosen as ‘Poem of the Week’ in the Guardian; and ‘Vendor and Child’ was chosen by New Internationalist for Fire in the Soul, the best 100 human rights poems from across the world over the last 100 years.
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John Eppel’s primary school teachers in colonial Rhodesia were British expats who instilled in him a love of Gregorian poetry, which was nothing if not lyrical. His early poems imitated them in form as well as content. Only later, when he became politically aware, did he introduce an ironical tone to his poems. The content became mostly African and the form became exaggeratedly European, to the point of becoming parodic. In this way he manages to simultaneously claim a connection to the land and to mock that connection, to place himself in that fertile seam of being neither African nor European. He used to despair of this limbo, but now he celebrates it.