A poetry collection that presents us with the aftermath of catastrophic Hurricane Irma (2017), taking us way beyond the ruins left by the storm, now takes home the 2020 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature.
Epiphaneia, by Trinidadian-born, British Virgin Islands-resident Richard Georges, is the third book of poetry to win the most prestigious international annual award for Caribbean writing since it was established ten years ago.
Renowned TT writer Earl Lovelace, himself a previous winner of the OCM Bocas Prize and this year’s chief judge, made the announcement online via the Bocas Lit Fest Facebook page in a novel live, virtual presentation yesterday evening. Joining Earl Lovelace on the final judging panel for the prize were Professor Emeritus Bridget Brereton, writer and academician Barbara Lalla, and literary scholar Laurence Breiner.
Sponsored by One Caribbean Media, the prize comes with an award of US$10,000 and will be presented to the winner at a special prize ceremony during the annual festival, the NGC Bocas Lit Fest, due to take place on September 18-20, having been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Epiphaneia was chosen by the judges from a shortlist of the three books previously selected as category winners: Edwidge Danticat’s short story collection Everything Inside— the best book of fiction by a Caribbean writer in 2020, and Tessa McWatt’s study of race, identity and belonging—the best non-fiction book of 2020 by a Caribbean author. Danticat and McWatt will receive awards of US$3,000 each.
A light of discovery
In his judge’s remarks, Lovelace commented, “Responses to catastrophe frequently take in evasion or cynicism: despair or glib resolution. Often they confine themselves in the familiar shapes of narrative, lamentation, or outrage. These poems take no such predictable shapes. It is as if each verse-form were a different lens for viewing the storm and the life in its aftermath. What makes these offerings so poignant is that many of them are lit with the brilliant life of the day-after. That epiphanic light of discovery is Richard Georges’ gift to us. We are delighted to acknowledge this accomplishment by one of the region’s phenomenal generation of younger poets.”
Previously longlisted for the OCM Bocas Prize, Richard Georges is the author of the poetry collections Make Us All Islands (Shearsman Books) and GIANT (Platypus Press). He is the recipient of the 2016 Marvin E Williams Literary Prize from The Caribbean Writer, and has been shortlisted for The Wasafiri New Writing Prize, The Small Axe Literary Prize, The Hollick Arvon Prize for Caribbean Literature, and the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. His third collection of poems, Epiphaneia, is published by Out-spoken Press. In addition to writing poetry, which has been widely anthologised, Georges works in higher education, is a founding editor of Moko magazine, and a Fellow of the Stellenbosch Institute of Advanced Study.
A decade sailing the Bocas
2020 is the tenth year of the OCM Bocas Prize. In 2019, the prize was won by Trinidadian writer Kevin Adonis Browne for his non-fiction book High Mas: Carnival and the Poetics of Caribbean Culture.
Other past winners are Jennifer Rahim for her short story collection Curfew Chronicles (2018); Kei Miller for the novel Augustown (2017); Olive Senior for the short fiction collection The Pain Tree (2016); Vladimir Lucien for the debut poetry collection Sounding Ground (2015); Robert Antoni for the novel As Flies to Whatless Boys (2014); Monique Roffey for the novel Archipelago (2013); and Earl Lovelace for the novel Is Just a Movie (2012). The late Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott was winner of the inaugural prize in 2011, for the poetry collection White Egrets.
The Prize announcement was just one of the many virtual events being rolled out by the NGC Bocas Lit Fest team over the next few months via its website www.bocaslitfest.com. This evening at 5.30 p.m., the popular festival event Sunday Launch will feature online readings by Canisia Lubrin and Jacob Ross from their new novels, and Funso Aiyejina reading from his new poetry collection. Pavement Poets, a presentation of spoken-word performances, will follow at 6.30 p.m. These will all be live-streamed via the Bocas Lit Fest Facebook account.
The tenth NGC Bocas Lit Fest will take place on September 18-20. Title sponsor is the National Gas Company, lead sponsor is First Citizens, main sponsors are the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts and One Caribbean Media. The National Lotteries Control Board, Massy Foundation and The UWI are sponsors.