Two writers from Jamaica and one writer from Trinidad and Tobago have made the shortlist for the 2014 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature.
From a longlist of ten titles in poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, the prize judges have chosen a winning book in each genre category. Kei Miller’s Writing Down the Vision was chosen from the non-fiction list, and fellow Jamaican Lorna Goodison’s Oracabessa was selected from the poetry category. Trinidadian Robert Antoni’s As Flies to Whatless Boys was chosen from the fiction list.
They will vie for the US$10,000 overall award, sponsored by One Caribbean Media, parent company of the Trinidad Express and TV6.
Kei Miller’s Writing Down the Vision (Peepal Tree Press) is a collection of essays that present a range of experiences — personal and public — which the writer uses to articulate his vision and his understanding of the realities of life in Jamaica and the Caribbean. The judges noted, “Miller is an original thinker, a writer who knows his own mind and is wary of orthodoxies. He is uncompromising and honest in his interrogation of issues and his experiences of the worlds he inhabits, cutting through the normalcy to reveal the realities of these worlds.”
Lorna Goodison’s Oracabessa (Carcanet Press) is a book of risky journeys, mappings, and re-mappings through Spain, Portugal, Canada, and her homeland of Jamaica, as the poet navigates place, history, and imagination. According to the judges, “In Oracabessa the distinctive voice of Lorna Goodison — an elegant, captivating fusion of international English and Jamaican Creole — presents segments of autobiography as a series of travels. Goodison’s persuasive art is a many-sided celebration of spiritual search.”
Robert Antoni’s novel As Flies to Whatless Boys (Akashic Books) is accented with West Indian cadence and captivating humour. It provides an unforgettable glimpse into nineteenth-century Trinidad. The judges added: “With mischief, ingenuity, and linguistic verve, Antoni reinvents the idea of the region’s islands as zones of perilous fantasy, where dreams come to grief but still make history.”
The winner of the overall OCM Bocas Prize will be announced on Saturday 26 April, as part of the fourth annual NGC Bocas Lit Fest. The final cross-genre judging panel, headed by the celebrated Jamaican poet Linton Kwesi Johnson, will include poet and academic Mervyn Morris, writer and academic Hazel Simmons-McDonald, literary critic and academic Ken Ramchand, and Marjorie Thorpe as representative of the Prize administrators.
The 2013 prize was won by Monique Roffey for her novel Archipelago. The 2012 prize was won by Trinidadian Earl Lovelace for his novel Is Just a Movie. Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott was winner of the inaugural 2011 prize for his poetry collection White Egrets.