Recent Comparative Literature graduate's first collection of poems honored by nomination
Baba Badji, a Senegalese-American poet, translator, researcher (PhD, Comparative Literature, 2021) has been long-listed for the 2021 National Book Award for Poetry. His first book, “Ghost Letters,” is a collection of poems which weaves together and juxtaposes complex and influential themes of his own life. The National Book award site notes that he "uses a personal epistolary form, blending English, French, Arabic, and Wolof into an interrogation of what it means to be Senegalese, Black, and an outsider in America. The letters, written for a “ghost mother,” travel the African diaspora across distance, race, and colonialism."
Badji is currently a Postdoctoral Associate in Comparative Literature at Rutgers–New Brunswick University. His research and teaching interests center on the links between the various forms of postcolonial studies, theory, and practice, with a particular focus on debates about postcolonial translation theory and Négritude in Anglophone and Francophone cultures. Besides English and French, he is fluent in Wolof, Mending, and Diola, and he calls on these languages in his writing.
Badji's use of these languages is as important as the words themselves, bringing disparate cultures together. He calls it, “chaotic beauty and a form of resistance.” The tangling of tongues and ghost mothers contribute to the complicated convergence of themes beautifully expressed through the book.
Congratulations to Baba for being recognized by this great honor.