Bocas Lit Fest

Dear Bocas enthusiasts, it’s that time again: time to virtually shake hands with the members of our judging panel! We don’t envy these folks — formidable writers, academics and scholars in their own right — their mammoth task of having selected this year’s longlist and shortlist: not to mention the looming honour of the 2013 OCM Bocas Prize itself!

If you’re planning on attending the festival this year, (for which the full itinerary has been published, and is available for perusal) you can expect to see several of the 2013 judges right alongside you, at panels and workshops; officiating discussions and debates — as well as attending the very events you’ve circled on your programme, too!

Olive-SeniorFirst up, let’s focus on Olive Senior, Jamaican author and the overall chair of the judging panel. Senior can be no stranger to anyone who’s even mildly versed in Caribbean letters: her writing career spans decades, and includes four volumes of poetry (Talking of Trees; Gardening in the Tropics; Over the Roofs of the World; Shell); three short fiction collections (Summer Lightning; Discerner of Hearts; Arrival of the Snake Woman); three works of non-fiction (A-Z of Jamaican Heritage; Working Miracles: Women’s Lives in the English-Speaking Caribbean; Encyclopedia of Jamaican Heritage). Most recently, Senior has published a children’s book, titled Birthday Suit.

Her 2011 novel, Dancing Lessons, was released to widespread acclaim in both regional and international circles. Rob Sherren of The Winnipeg Review describes segments of the work as “full, flowing through images, settings, and times, evoking and showcasing the tangled symbiosis of Jamaican landscape and society.” (complete review here)

Reviewed in the November/December 2012 issue of Caribbean BeatDancing Lessons is thusly described:

 dancinglessons“How curious and delightful to conceive of Olive Senior making a writing debut of any kind. Yet Dancing Lessons is her first novel, joining the rest of her considerable oeuvre with no uncertain success. Gertrude Samphire, in the twilight of her years, is sent to a convalescent home by her daughter, while her own home in rural Jamaica undergoes repairs, in the aftermath of a hurricane. Gertrude, who refers to herself cryptically as G for much of the novel, casts her thoughts back to the life that has been hers. The poignant, unsatisfying distances between G and her children are matched in subtler ways by the realisation that one can journey away from oneself, too. Masterfully hewn, the novel sashays in and out of seasons, conducting a measured, graceful investigation of the quiet despair that accompanies one woman’s rest.”

Where can you see Olive Senior at this year’s festival?

  • Friday, April 26th: A one on one session, where the author will talk about her life and work. (1 -2 pm, Old Fire Station)
  • Sunday, April 28th: Edinburgh World Writer’s Conference panel, where Senior will present the keynote address on the topic “Should literature be political?”, at a debate which includes panelists Earl Lovelace, Pankaj Mishra, Courttia Newland, and is chaired by Ifeona Fulani. (11 am – 12:30 pm, Old Fire Station)
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