Bocas News

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Judge Spotlight – Patience Agbabi

By Shivanee Ramlochan, 2015 NGC Bocas Lit Fest Blogger

Photo © Lyndon Douglas.

Photo © Lyndon Douglas.

Welcome to the beginning of our 2015 NGC Bocas Lit Fest pre-festival coverage! #bocas2015 is on the horizon, with less than two months to go: to launch our comprehensive Bocas blog calendar, we turn our attention to the OCM Bocas Prize itself. With the announcement of this year’s longlist fresh in our minds, we’ll be introducing you to the book-savvy, diligent team of 2015 OCM Bocas Prize judges who’ve juggled and weighed these tough decisions of literary merit.

Let’s begin with the first of our poetry judges, British writer Patience Agbabi. Her official bio proclaims her dual interest in both written and spoken word poetry, with four full-length books under her belt. The most recent of these, Telling Tales (Canongate Books, 2014) riffs boldly and experimentally off of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. These imaginative acts of reinvention are crucial to the work, as Agbabi tells Telegraph interviewer Charlotte Runcie — reinterpreting these classics for a multicultural, 21st century Britain means to “take an interesting angle and play around with form and sound and character, and take it to a different dimension.”

Agbabi’s vibrant linguistic aplomb is as evident on the spoken word stage: here’s a clip from her performing a piece called “Word” at a 2013 London Liming showcase. Many of the lines are inquisitive, proclaiming a passionate focus on the delights of the English language itself: “My mother fed me rhymes through the umbilical/I was born waxing lyrical!”

For more information on Agbabi’s work, check out her website, and stay tuned for our next poetry Judge Spotlight on Jamaican author, Pamela Mordecai.