More Than A Literary Festival

The 2023 Bocas Henry Swanzy Award

The 2023 recipient of the Bocas Henry Swanzy Award is Professor Emerita Sandra Pouchet Paquet, a Trinidad-born, US-based Caribbeanist scholar who spent much of her career at the University of Miami — in recognition of her pioneering contributions to the fields of academia, literature, and cultural studies.

One of the first Caribbeanist scholars at a US university, Pouchet Paquet entered a field that was in flux, and committed herself to its transformation. In the 1990s, in addition to educating and mentoring students at the undergraduate and graduate levels, Pouchet Paquet directed the University of Miami’s Caribbean Writers Summer Institute, an initiative that shaped the careers of a generation of authors who soon became leading figures in Caribbean literature.

With her founding in 2003 of Anthurium: A Caribbean Studies Journal, Pouchet Paquet established an early born-digital publication that would swiftly be regarded as a rich repository for peer-reviewed scholarship of both academic and creative foundations.

Born in Trinidad, Sandra Pouchet Paquet pursued an undergraduate degree at Manhattanville College, New York (1967), followed by an MA and PhD in English at the University of Connecticut (1971, 1976). After a transformational three-year period of teaching at the University of the West Indies, Mona (1974–77), Pouchet Paquet took on Assistant Professorships at the Universities of Hartford and Pennsylvania before her developmental journey with the University of Miami began. Her advocacy for the study, inclusion and interweaving of Caribbean scholarship into the wider academic community characterised her pedagogy at its earliest levels, and strengthened upon each appointment.

Powerful and generative connections with Derek Walcott and George Lamming would keenly impact Pouchet Paquet’s career and its directions. Crediting Lamming with being her first true educator in Caribbean literature, Pouchet Paquet’s own critical writings of Lamming’s work have been prolific, sustained, and vigorous: her book The Novels of George Lamming (Heinemann, 1980) remains a seminal text. Her other full-length publications are Caribbean Autobiography: Cultural Identity and Self-Representation (University of Wisconsin Press, 2007) and Music, Memory, Resistance: Calypso and the Caribbean Literary Imagination (Ian Randle Publishers, 2007), co-edited with Patricia Saunders and Stephen Stuempfle. The range of interests across her numerous journal publications is testament to a keenly engaged critical consciousness committed to exploring Caribbean feminisms, Afro-Caribbean studies, and studies of the diaspora, among numerous areas of interest.

About the Award

In 2013, the Bocas Lit Fest inaugurated a new annual lifetime achievement award to recognise service to Caribbean literature by editors, publishers, critics, broadcasters, and others.

The Bocas Henry Swanzy Award for Distinguished Service to Caribbean Letters is named for the late BBC World Service radio producer (1915–2004) who took the BBC World Service programme Caribbean Voices, started by Jamaican Una Marson, to new heights, making it a landmark platform for Caribbean writing in the 1940s and 50s.  Swanzy commissioned, edited and promoted West Indian writers living at home and broadcast their fiction and poems across the region, helping to advance their writing careers and create the generation of successful West Indian writers of the last century.

The Bocas Lit Fest founded the award to honour and celebrate the contributions of the editors, broadcasters, publishers, critics, and others who have shaped the evolution of Caribbean literature behind the scenes. Recipients are chosen by the Bocas Lit Fest.

In previous years, the Award was presented to publishers John La Rose and Sarah White of New Beacon Books, in 2013; literary critics Kenneth Ramchand and Gordon Rohlehr, in 2014; editor and broadcaster Margaret Busby in 2015; publisher Jeremy Poynting of Peepal Tree Press in 2016; bookseller Joan Dayal of Paper Based Bookshop, in 2017; editor and scholar Anne Walmsley in 2018; publisher Ian Randle in 2019;  scholar and editor Kamau Brathwaite in 2020; and literary critics Edward Baugh and Mervyn Morris in 2021.

All Awardees

Funso Aiyejina

Author

2000 Commonwealth Writers Prize (Africa) Winner

The 2022 recipients of the Bocas Henry Swanzy Award for Distinguished Service to Caribbean Letters are Funso Aiyejina and Merle Hodge. They are being recognised for their work over more than two decades as creative writing teachers and mentors, in particular through the influential Cropper Foundation Writers’ Workshop.

Merle Hodge

Author

2022 Bocas Henry Swanzy Award Winner

The 2022 recipients of the Bocas Henry Swanzy Award for Distinguished Service to Caribbean Letters are Funso Aiyejina and Merle Hodge. They are being recognised for their work over more than two decades as creative writing teachers and mentors, in particular through the influential Cropper Foundation Writers’ Workshop.

Edward Baugh

Author

2021 Bocas Henry Swanzy Award Winner

The 2021 Bocas Henry Swanzy Award recipients are Mervyn Morris and Edward Baugh for their instrumental role in decisively establishing a Caribbean school of literary scholarship. They are widely considered pioneers of the study of West Indian literature, over careers that each span half a century.

Mervyn Morris

Author

2021 Bocas Henry Swanzy Award Winner

The 2021 Bocas Henry Swanzy Award recipients are Mervyn Morris and Edward Baugh for their instrumental role in decisively establishing a Caribbean school of literary scholarship. They are widely considered pioneers of the study of West Indian literature, over careers that each span half a century.

Kamau Brathwaite

Author

2020 Bocas Henry Swanzy Award Winner

The 2020 Bocas Henry Swanzy Award was presented to Kamau Brathwaite for his landmark work as a literary activist, critic and editor.

Ian Randle

Publisher

2019 Bocas Henry Swanzy Award Winner

The 2019 Bocas Henry Swanzy Award was presented to publishing pioneer Ian Randle of Jamaica, founder and chairman of Ian Randle Publishers Limited, which he founded in 1990 as the Caribbean’s first commercial scholarly publishing company.

Anne Walmsley

Publisher

2018 Bocas Henry Swanzy Award Winner

The 2018 Bocas Henry Swanzy Award was presented to Anne Walmsley, writer, editor, and researcher, the former publisher of Longman Caribbean, editor of the landmark anthologies The Sun’s Eye and Facing the Sea, and historian of the Caribbean Artists’ Movement (CAM).

Joan Dayal

Bookseller

2017 Bocas Henry Swanzy Award Winner

The 2017 Bocas Henry Swanzy Award was presented to bookseller Joan Dayal, proprietor of Paper Based Books, one of Trinidad and Tobago’s and the Caribbean’s leading independent bookshops.

Jeremy Poynting

Publisher

2016 Bocas Henry Swanzy Award Winner

The 2016 Bocas Henry Swanzy Award was presented to publisher and editor Jeremy Poynting, founder of Peepal Tree Press, which over the past thirty years has become the leading publisher of Caribbean poetry and fiction.

Margaret Busby

Publisher

2015 Bocas Henry Swanzy Award Winner

The 2015 Bocas Henry Swanzy Award was presented to publisher, editor, and broadcaster Margaret Busby, OBE, co-founder of the publishing house Allison & Busby, in recognition of her decades-long work promoting Caribbean, African, and Black British writers and publishers in the United Kingdom.

Gordon Rohlehr

Author

2014 Bocas Henry Swanzy Award Winner

The 2014 Bocas Henry Swanzy Award was presented to literary critics Kenneth Ramchand and Gordon Rohlehr, both professors emeriti of the University of the West Indies, in recognition of their role in establishing West Indian literature as an academic discipline, and their groundbreaking critical work on the writings of Caribbean authors.

Ken Ramchand

Author

2014 Bocas Henry Swanzy Award Winner

The 2014 Bocas Henry Swanzy Award was presented to literary critics Kenneth Ramchand and Gordon Rohlehr, both professors emeriti of the University of the West Indies, in recognition of their role in establishing West Indian literature as an academic discipline, and their groundbreaking critical work on the writings of Caribbean authors.

Sarah White

Speaker

2013 Bocas Henry Swanzy Award Winner

The 2013 Bocas Henry Swanzy Award was presented to John La Rose (posthumously) and Sarah White of New Beacon Books. Founded in London in 1966, New Beacon is both a pioneering publishing house and a specialist bookshop focusing on writers and writing from the Caribbean. Over the past four decades, New Beacon has published works by writers such as Wilson Harris, Andrew Salkey, Errol Hill, Dennis Scott, Erna Brodber, Mervyn Morris, and numerous others, and the bookshop in Stroud Green, North London is an epicentre of Caribbean literary and intellectual life in the United Kingdom.

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