Writers from five countries are in the running for the 2014 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, sponsored by One Caribbean Media.
The Prize longlist, announced by the judges on 25 February, 2014, covers poetry, fiction, and literary non-fiction. The winners in the three genre categories will be announced on 30 March, and the Prize will be presented on 26 April, during the fourth annual NGC Bocas Lit Fest in Port of Spain. The overall winner of the Prize will receive a US$10,000 award.
In the poetry category, UK-based Grenadian Malika Booker’s Pepper Seed interconnects a larger diasporic story, which draws on dramatic monologue, historical narratives and poetry of witness in its delivery. Oracabessa by Lorna Goodison 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. Fellow Jamaican Edward Baugh’s Black Sand focuses on the poem, and its struggle to come into existence as a moment of clarity in a world of chaos. The Butterfly Hotel by Trinidadian Roger Robinson features stirring works that shape new concepts of home by the very rewarding act of re-creating memory through stories that are gracefully and elegantly rendered.
Three novels vie in the fiction category. As Flies to Whatless Boys by Trinidadian Robert Antoni is a tragic historical novel, accented with West Indian cadence and captivating humour, provides an unforgettable glimpse into nineteenth-century Trinidad and Tobago. Haitian-American Edwidge Danticat’s Claire of the Sea Light embraces the magic and heartbreak of ordinary life and brings us deep into the intertwined lives of a small seaside town where a little girl, the daughter of a fisherman, has gone missing. In Jamaican writer Kerry Young’s work Gloria, a story of love in its many forms unfolds, and of Gloria’s evolution-from a frightened girl on the run to a woman fully possessed of her own power.
The non-fiction category brings together three excellent titles from different countries. In Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture, Guyanese writer Gaiutra Bahadur tells through her great-grandmother’s story the stories of countless other women who made the passage from India to the Caribbean, and opens a window to their perilous journeys to a forgotten world of servitude as indentured labour. Trinidadian Carole Boyce Davies’s Caribbean Spaces: Escapes from Twilight Zones echoes the migrant’s longing for home as well as a woman’s search for wholeness in an ever-fragmenting world. Kei Miller’s Writing Down the Vision 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 2014 judges include a range of distinguished Caribbean and international writers, editors, and scholars. The poetry panel, chaired by Jamaican academic and poet Mervyn Morris, also includes British-born poet and novelist Bernardine Evaristo, and Trinidadian poet James Christopher Aboud. UWI Professor Emeritus Kenneth Ramchand chairs the fiction panel, which also includes UK literary critic Boyd Tonkin and Belizean novelist and academic Zee Edgell. And St. Lucian scholar Hazel Simmons-McDonald is chairman of the non-fiction panel, joined by Neil Bissoondath, prize-winning author from Trinidad and Tobago, and Trinidadian writer and editor Sunity Maharaj.
The final cross-genre judging panel, headed by the celebrated Jamaican poet Linton Kwesi Johnson, will also include Marjorie Thorpe as representative of the Prize administrators. Further information on the OCM Bocas Prize here.
The 2014 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature longlist:
Edward Baugh, Black Sand: New and Collected Poems (Peepal Tree Press)
Malika Booker, Pepper Seed (Peepal Tree Press)
Lorna Goodison, Oracabessa (Carcanet)
Roger Robinson, The Butterfly Hotel (Peepal Tree Press)
Robert Antoni, As Flies to Whatless Boys (Akashic Books)
Edwidge Danticat, Claire of the Sea Light (Alfred Knopf)
Kerry Young, Gloria (Bloomsbury Circus)
Gaiutra Bahadur, Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture (University of Chicago Press)
Carole Boyce Davies, Caribbean Spaces: Escapes from Twilight Zones (University of Illinois Press)
Kei Miller, Writing Down the Vision: Essays and Prophecies (Peepal Tree Press)