Our assistant editor, Uchenna Emelife, posed five questions to all the authors shortlisted for the 2023 edition of the Isele Prizes. The questions stretch from their writing processes, to the themes they are most drawn to, their inspirations, and more.

See Alec Solomita’s responses below. Also, read his poem, “In The Parking Lot”.

Uchenna Emelife: Could you talk about your shortlisted poem, its writing process, and what informed it? 

Alec Solomita: I was spurred to write this poem because of the food theme Isele asked for. I immediately thought of the unhappy incident I witnessed in a supermarket parking lot. It was as the poem says the saddest thing I ever saw. It’s very narrative, almost a  flash story, but the poetic aspects of it made it more vivid to me. It was a kind of bustling, jerky experience, and the poem seemed the best way to express it.

UE: How do you tell a work is ready to meet the world? 

AS: When I like it.

UE: What does writing mean to you? 

AS: It’s pretty much all i care about.

UE: If you could only write about one thing, what would you write and why? 

AS: Loss. It’s the only thing we can be sure of.

UE: Whose works speak to you? Why? And how do they do that?  

AS: Simic, Larkin, Boland, Audrey Molloy, Anne Walsh Donnely, Katia Kapovich. All of them and more speak to me because of a combination of magic with words and courageous honesty.

About the Authors:

Uchenna Emelife: Uchenna Emelife is a literary curator, an arts administrator, a bookseller, and a human rights advocate. He is the co-founder and creative director of Book O’clock — a literary platform in Sokoto that hosts a literary blog, book clubs, and a bookstore. In 2021, he co-curated the first Book and Arts Festival in Sokoto and was nominated as Mediapreneur of the Year in the Founder of the Year Awards. Uchenna Emelife is as well an advocate for Child Rights, Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights, and anti-Sexual and Gender-based Violence. As a fellow of the African Youth Adolescent Network (AfriYAN), he has been contracted for various virtual campaigns to support the cause by Education as a Vaccine and United Nations Population Fund (UNPA).

Alec Solomita is a writer working in the Boston area. His fiction has appeared in the Southwest Review, The Mississippi Review, Southword Journal, among other publications. He was shortlisted by the Bridport Prize and Southword Journal. His poetry has appeared in Poetica, Lothlorien Poetry Journal, Driftwood Press, The Rye Whiskey Review, The Galway Review, and elsewhere, including several anthologies. His poetry chapbook “Do Not Forsake Me,” was published in 2017. His full-length poetry book, “Hard To Be a Hero,” was released by Kelsay Books last spring.