Kyle Hernandez is the 2023 First Citizens National Poetry Slam winner. The popular spoken word championship — with a top prize of TT$50,000, sponsored by First Citizens — took place before a sold-out audience at the Central Bank Auditorium in Port of Spain on Sunday 30 April, 2023.
Slam lovers were treated to a high-energy production of the popular spoken word championship, as the auditorium stage was transformed into a Village Circle for the signature closing event of the 2023 NGC Bocas Lit Fest. Fifteen poets performed before an audience, which included visiting literary icons such as Jamaican dub poetry legend Linton Kwesi Johnson and Anthony Joseph, poetry category winner of the 2023 OCM Bocas Prize.
The challenging task of adjudicating the performances was led by head judge elisha efua bartels,who said, “The Slam semis paved the way for the exciting finals that saw the youths giving the veteran poets serious competition. Additionally, with seven judges, we were all able to enjoy the surprise result of the night.” Judges included poet Arielle John; former journalist Asha Javeed; David Roberts, deputy PS in the Office of the Prime Minister; NGC director Lawrence Arjoon; Barbadian-British poet Safiya Kamaria Kinshasa; and Elizabeth “Lady” Montano, author of King of Soca.
Kyle Hernandez’s powerful and victorious performance was a stunning display of drama, emotion, and lyrical dexterity. Hernandez tackled the problem of negative self-talk, calling for a more positive outlook. During his performance, he even orchestrated the audience in a sing-along, proving that his message was resonating with everyone in the auditorium. When he was declared winner of the Grand Slam title, Hernandez’s joy was palpable. “Becoming the national Slam champion of Trinidad and Tobago feels like faith, it feels like fate,” he said.
Derron Sandy, 2021 First Citizens National Poetry Slam winner, took second place, while Alexandra Stewart, the three-time defending champion, came in third. They received $20,000 and $10,000 cash prizes, respectively.
Jason Julien, Deputy CEO, Business Generation, at First Citizens highlighted the importance of the Slam as a platform for local poets to showcase their immeasurable talent. “We at First Citizens are proud to continue to be a partner with Bocas Lit Fest in the development and advancement of our literary talent,” he said.
He added that “The First Citizens National Poetry Slam continues to be a marquee event that follows the centuries-old oral tradition of storytelling, relevant and unique to society and the current generation. With such talented performers, it is a quality, infinite, world-class resource that can be exported and broadcast to audiences around the world.”
Bocas Lit Fest CEO Jean-Claude Cournand commended the high standards of the championship, saying, “The Grand Slam Final was a fitting way to bring the festival to a close. The pieces were diverse, refreshing, and some were even surprising.” Cournand said that Slam supporters can soon look forward to the broadcasted semifinals and final.
For more information about the First Citizens National Poetry Slam, visit www.bocaslitfest.com/poetry-slam or follow @nationalslamtt on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.