Bocas Lit Fest

The 2021 First Citizens National Poetry Slam audition round was totally virtual. The Zoom platform became the new audition stage for poets across the country entering the largest spoken word challenge in the Caribbean.

The Slam, now in its ninth year, is giving $50,000 to the winner. The prize is sponsored by First Citizens. Judges for the auditions were communications expert Denise Demming, spoken word artist Arielle John, comedian Kwame Weekes, president of the Circle of Poets Nicholas Sosa, and singer/songwriter Marge Blackman.

Harmony Farrell performs during the virtual audition of the 2021 First Citizens National Poetry Slam.

In 2020, the First Citizens National Poetry Slam auditions were held in four locations, before the Covid-19 pandemic halted physical events. The semi-finals and final were televised and broadcast to the public for free. This year, adhering to lockdown restrictions, participants registered for individual time slots to perform their audition pieces in real time.

Title sponsor First Citizens and slam producer The Bocas Lit Fest will partner with TTT, as part of its thrust to showcase quality local programming, to broadcast the next stages of this year’s Slam on television and via livestream on Facebook.

The semi-finals are set to air on August 22 and 28, and the final is scheduled for October.

The 2021 theme, Poetry is Resilience, plays on the idea of artists and art enduring and finding new ways to exist through the pandemic, and explores new definitions of poetry with existing audiences and with those new to the art form. As a pioneering, fully-virtual event, this year’s slam demonstrates resilience in the face of the pandemic, the release said.

Professor Sterling Frost, deputy CEO of operations and administration at First Citizens gave kudos to the Bocas Lit Fest for keeping the slam going in spite of the pandemic challenges. “First Citizens remains a proud partner of the Bocas Lit Fest, having worked together for almost a decade to build what has undoubtedly become the premier poetry event on our local calendar. We congratulate the Bocas committee for aptly demonstrating their own resilience, by embracing the opportunity to forge a new paradigm for the event, with this completely virtual 2021 edition,” Frost said in the release.

Darrion Narine performs during the virtual audition of the 2021 First Citizens National Poetry Slam.

Bocas Lit Fest founder Marina Salandy-Brown acknowledged the continued dedication to spoken word as a platform for social change. “From 2013 to now, despite changing circumstances, settings, and format, one thing has never changed – the quality of the artistry of the participants in the annual slam. We’re very happy that it’s still growing and has proven sustainable despite the pandemic’s uncertainty, with the support of our poets and artist community, and the backing of First Citizens.”

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