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Juliane Okot Bitek


Dr. Juliane Okot Bitek is a poet and scholar. Her 100 Days, a collection of poetry on how to remember the 1994 Rwanda Genocide, won the 2017 Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry and the INDIEFAB Book of the Year (Poetry) Award. It was also nominated for several writing prizes.

Juliane’s most recent journal articles and contributions include:

  • "dis place: on the Second Emancipation Day in Canada. small axe 41 (2023)
  • "Meaning of a Song," Unsettling Translation: River in an Ocean. Trace Press, 2023
  • "Back at You, Conrad!" Messy Ethics ib Human Rights Work. Eds Shayna Plaut, Neil Bilotta, Lara Rosenoff-Gauvin and Maritza Felices-Luna. UBC Press, 2023
  • "Colonial Intent as Treachery: A Poetic Response," Critical African Studies Vol14, Issue 1 (2022)
  • “What Choices Between Nightmares: Intersecting Local, Global and Intimate Stories of Pain in Peacebuilding” Peace Building and the Arts (Palgrave/MacMillan, 2020)
  • “Conversations at the Crossroads: Indigenous and Black Writers Talk”, Ariel: A Review of International English Literature (2020)
  • “States of Being: The Poet & Scholar as a Black, African, & Diasporic Woman”, Nuances of Blackness in the Canadian Academy: Teaching, Learning and Researching While Black, edited by Awad Ibrahim et al (U of Toronto Press, 2022).

A is for Acholi a poetry collection (Wolsak and Wynn 2022) was shortlisted for the 2023 Pat Lowther Memorial Award for Poetry, was a finalist for the 2023 Jim Deva Prize for Writing that Provokes, and it won the 2023 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize.

Her most recent collection of poetry is Song & Dread (Talonbooks 2022).

She is an Assistant Professor in the Black Studies Program at Queen’s University, joint-appointed in Gender Studies and English.

Research Interests

African literature; Black Studies; Creative Writing (especially poetry); Black theory; Black Diasporic literature; oral traditions; war and trauma literature; history and cultural memory; Black and Indigenous cultural relations

Selected Publications

Song and Dread

Talon Books

COVID meditations from literary phenom Otoniya J. Okot Bitek

Rife with the paradoxical forces of boredom and intensity, the early days of COVID-19 passed under an inescapable pall. The poems of Song & Dread seek quietude, order, refuge, and space within that shroud. They remind us of community, connectedness, and what is inherently shared. Here, Otoniya J. Okot Bitek becomes a record keeper, observing the contradictory, symbiotic relationship between the quotidian and the extraordinary. These are works of their time, while remembering an existence outside it. With a keen eye, Okot Bitek documents the ways the strange can become normalized when there is no other option.

Purchase here

A Is for Acholi

Wolsak & Wynn

A Is for Acholi is a sweeping collection exploring diaspora, the marginalization of the Acholi people, the dusty streets of Nairobi and the cold grey of Vancouver. Playfully upending English and scholarly notation Otoniya J. Okot Bitek rearranges the alphabet, hides poems in footnotes and slips stories into superscripts. The poet opens up ways of rethinking history as she rewrites both the 1862 contact of the Acholi people with the British and the racist texts of Joseph Conrad, while also searching for a way to live on lands that are fraught with the legacies of colonization, similar to her ancestral homeland. With writing that is lyric, layered and deeply felt, the poems in A Is for Acholi unfold maps of history, culture and identity, tracing a route to a present where the poet dreams of writing a world without empire.

Creative writing description
  • African literature; Black Studies
  • Creative Writing (especially poetry)
  • Black theory
  • Black Diasporic literature
  • oral traditions
  • war and trauma literature
  • history and cultural memory
  • Black and Indigenous cultural relations


Areas of Study
Black Studies
Conflict Studies
Critical Race Studies
Diaspora and Globalization Studies
Genres and Forms
Creative Writing
Poetry and Poetics

Department of English, Queen's University

Watson Hall
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Kingston ON K7L 3N6

Telephone (613) 533-2153


Telephone (613) 533-6000 ext. 74446 extension 74446


Telephone (613) 533-6000 ext. 74447 extension 74447

Queen's University is situated on traditional Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe territory.