For the second time in its five-year history a young Tobagonian woman has won the region’s biggest Slam competition with a first time winner’s prize of $50,000.
She is 18-year-old Camryn Bruno, the youngest winner to date of the annual First Citizens National Poetry Slam Championship.
On Sunday night, Bruno was flanked by Alexandra Stewart in second place with a cash prize of $20,000. Bruno and Stewart were two of five young women among this year’s thirteen finalists. Idrees Saleem, 2014 Slam champ, came in third, for the second consecutive year, but this time, taking home $10,000.
In a surprise announcement at the 2017 NGC Bocas Lit Fest media launch, Slam title sponsor First Citizens raised the stakes of the National Poetry Slam by adding a hefty $45,000 to the total prize value, effectively doubling the second and third place prizes while increasing the prize for first by $30,000.
In another big move for the 2017 Slam, the final round of competition and closing event of the 5-day NGC Bocas Lit Fest was held for the first in the Lord Kitchener Auditorium of the National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA). Maintaining the trend of sold-out shows, this year’s Spoken Word finale was met with the now characteristic gusto of a packed auditorium of over eleven hundred loyal fans and hungry supporters, well-wishers and newcomers.
Founder of the Bocas Lit Fest, Marina Salandy-Brown commented, “The poetry, the stories, the performances showcased a sophistication of thought and skill among our people that seems out of sync with so much that is wrong with T&T. Spoken Word demands an attentive audience and the depth of our love and appreciation for words and wordplay is impressive. Everyone left uplifted and happy, no matter their age or background.”
Addressing the quality of the show, First Citizens Group Corporate Communications Manager Dexter Charles admits, “This event has completely exceeded my expectations from back in 2013 when we first came on board. I’m simply blown away by the spectacle these young people have managed to create here tonight with the guidance of the Bocas team.” Charles added, “The moving Walcott tribute by Wendell Manwarren, DJ Rawkus on the stage giving us regular musical interludes, the real-time projection of the poets onto that fantastic screen, and, of course, the extraordinarily talented competitors: they all made it very special.”
Jean-Claude Cournand, Bocas Youth Outreach Coordinator and founder of the 2 Cents Movement added, “The future of spoken word poetry is in the creation of spaces in schools where students can use the craft to explore language and themselves. We see a day where every student could have access to mentorship through the art form, and a safe space to share and be heard.”
The final round of competition was judged by a first-class panel of award-winning local and international authors and poets, led by UK-based Trinidadian poet, novelist and musician, Anthony Joseph.