More Than A Literary Festival

Literary star Dionne Brand returns to Bocas

There is a week in October each year when a particular subset of readers — Caribbean or otherwise — hold their breaths hoping to hear a particular writer’s name. The reason is the annual announcement of the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, and the writer is Dionne Brand, who many readers and scholars consider a leading contender for the award.

Over the past four and a half decades, since her publishing debut in 1978, Dionne Brand has amassed a body of writing — in poetry and prose, fiction and essay, and hybrid genres — rivalling that of any other living writer, in its intellectual depth, political commitment, and formal experiment. Born in Guayaguayare, Trinidad in 1953, and based in Toronto, Canada, since the 1970s, Brand has published twelve books of poems, six of fiction, and five of non-fiction, and been recognised with a slew of literary awards, including the Griffin Poetry Prize (the world’s largest international prize for a single book of poetry written in, or translated into English), Canada’s Governor General’s Literary Award, a Windham-Campbell Prize, and the OCM Bocas Prize for Fiction in 2019.

Now readers in T&T will have a chance to encounter this acclaimed writer up close, as she joins the lineup for the 2024 NGC Bocas Lit Fest, running from Thursday 25 to Sunday 28 April. This will be Brand’s second time at the annual festival, with two events in the programme focused, respectively, on her fiction and poetry.

On the night of Friday 26 April, the festival will host a celebration of the 25th anniversary of Brand’s novel At the Full and Change of the Moon. Published in 1999, At the Full and Change of the Moon opens in Trinidad in 1824, with a monumental act of rebellion by Marie-Ursule, an enslaved women and secret resistance leader. The story then follows six generations of her descendants as they wander from Trinidad to North America and Europe, restlessly searching for a better future while haunted by ghosts of the past.

The anniversary event — free, unticketed, and open to the public — will take place at the Big Black Box, the popular backyard performance space on Murray Street in Woodbrook. It will include an appearance by Brand herself, alongside dramatised readings by actors elisha efua bartels, Mandisa Granderson, and Conrad Parris, and a musical performance by 3canal.

The following morning, Saturday 27 April, the NGC Bocas Lit Fest programme will turn to Brand’s achievements as a poet, with a special one-on-one conversation focused on her latest book, Nomenclature: New and Selected Poems. Taking place at the Old Fire Station in downtown Port of Spain, starting at 10 am, the session will include readings and a wide-ranging dialogue between Brand and poet Shivanee Ramlochan.

Audiences can expect poems and conversation ranging in topics from the Grenada Revolution to the Gulf War of the 1990s to the catastrophes of the burning present. “Ferocious inclusivity articulates Brand’s politics and life in activism,” wrote Ramlochan in a 2019 profile, published in Caribbean Beat. “You couldn’t separate this political animus from Brand’s work if you tried — in every genre, her commitment to her peoples, her places, would shun any smaller analysis.”

Something similar could be said about many other authors in the 2024 NGC Bocas Lit Fest lineup — a cohort of acclaimed prizewinners and literary border-crossers in all genres, including Haitian-American Edwidge Danticat, Trinidadian-Canadian Rabindranath Maharaj, Canada-based American Christina Sharpe, Indian International Booker Prize winner Geetanjali Shree, and St. Lucian-Canadian Canisia Lubrin. The festival will also include all three winners of the 2024 OCM Bocas Prize genre categories: USVI-born Nicole Sealey for poetry, T&T’s Kevin Jared Hosein for fiction, and US-based Jamaican Safiya Sinclair for non-fiction.

Over 150 writers, speakers, and performers are featured in the 2024 programme, with events including readings, discussions, book launches, workshops, films, an eagerly anticipated Ole Mas competition, plus a full programme of events for children and a special day of events for teens.

The full festival programme is online at

The National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago is title sponsor of the NGC Bocas Lit Fest; OCM, First Citizens, the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts, and the British Council are main sponsors; Massy Foundation, UWI, and the JB Fernandes Memorial Trust are sponsors.


Dionne Brand at the 2024 NGC Bocas Lit Fest

Friday 26 April

AT THE FULL AND CHANGE OF THE MOON: A big night of words and music at the Big Black Box, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the landmark novel by Dionne Brand

A novel that ranges over centuries and continents, full of unforgettable voices and stories, At the Full and Change of the Moon is the definition of a classic. Author Dionne Brand reads from her fiction masterpiece, with dramatised readings by elisha efua bartels, Mandisa Granderson, and Conrad Parris, plus a performance by 3canal

7.00 pm until • Big Black Box, 33 Murray Street, Woodbrook

Saturday 27 April


Nomenclature: New and Collected Poems firmly establishes Dionne Brand as one of the major poets writing in any language today. Ranging from her experience of the Grenada Revolution to the Iraq War of the early 1990s to the catastrophes of the burning present, these poems combine an acute political awareness with deep formal experiment. She joins Shivanee Ramlochan for a wide-ranging conversation about literary commitment

10.00–11.00 am • Old Fire Station

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