Born in South Africa in 1947, John Eppel was raised in Zimbabwe, where he still lives, now retired, in Bulawayo.
Eppel’s poetry collections include Spoils of War, which won the Ingrid Jonker prize, Sonata for Matabeleland, Selected Poems: 1965 – 1995, Songs My Country Taught Me, and Landlocked: New and Selected Poems from Zimbabwe, which was a winner in the international Poetry Workshop Prize judged by Billy Collins. Furthermore he has collaborated with Philani Amadeus Nyoni in a collection called Hewn From Rock, and with Togara Muzanenhamo in a collection called Textures, which won the 2015 NAMA Award. He has published three collections of poetry and short stories: The Caruso of Colleen Bawn, White Man Crawling, and, in collaboration with the late Julius Chingono, Together.
In July 2010, Carol Rumens selected Eppel's poem Jasmine as the poem of the week on the Guardian newspaper web site:
It comes back to me, this August,
now that the jasmine is blooming
and the air is stilled by woodsmoke;
how they cried freedom, and how I
knew their song.
In a new poem The Dog-meat Vendor – Eppel reads it on video here – and forthcoming in Eppel's 20th published work, O Suburbia from Weaver Press, he notes wryly about poetry and life:
This villanelle has just one agenda:
appreciate what poverty begets.
His cuts, half rotten, are sweet and tender.
Salutations to the dog-meat vendor.
Eppel's poems have appeared in many anthologies, journals and websites, including six poems in the Penguin Anthology of South African Poetry. His poem, 'Vendor and Child' was chosen by New Internationalist for their collection, Fire in the Soul, the best 100 human rights poems from across the world over the last 100 years.
The poet's 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 novel, Hatchings, was short-listed for the M-Net prize and was chosen for the series in the Times Literary Supplement 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, Traffickings, and (awaiting publication) The Boy Who Loved Camping.
A bibliography of Eppel's work at African Books Collective