Deneka Thomas is the new champion of the First Citizens National Poetry Slam and the winner of fifty thousand dollars, courtesy title sponsor First Citizens.
The big-ticket event of the NGC Bocas Lit Fest, the Slam finals brought down the curtains on the national annual literary festival on Sunday evening at the National Academy for Performing Arts (NAPA).
Kyle Hernandez earned second place and a cash prize of twenty thousand dollars, while Idrees Saleem came in third for the second consecutive year, winning ten thousand dollars.
Eminent storyteller Paul Keens-Douglas led an impressive panel of judges that included a mix of local and international personalities and writers. In his feedback to the poets at the end, he described the evening as “a celebration of the spoken word”.
The 26-year-old Thomas is the third woman to win in the Slam’s six years. She was one of sixteen contenders for the 2018 Grand Slam champion title and one of just six women to make it to the final round of competition. Her piece addressed the unfair strain and constraints of living in the closet as a member of the LGBTQI community and interrogated the right of others to dictate how two consenting adults should have sex.
Commenting on her victory, Thomas said, “I came to tell that story in particular. To give people a glimpse into an aspect of the narrative of the queer experience that is often never seen or considered. And presenting the narrative was most important to me. Winning means I get to continue that conversation in a huge way and that is the greatest reward at this point in time.”
NGC Bocas Lit Fest founder and director Marina Salandy-Brown reiterated her support for the Slam as a crucial component of the national literary festival, “Our young people never cease to amaze us with their profound insights and passion for a fair and just world. Being able to provide this platform for their craft and their views within the NGC Bocas Lit Fest is a service to the people of this country that makes me feel very proud.