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WORD VIEW: Literary feast

Esther Phillips

WORD VIEW: Literary feast

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Barbados is in for a literary feast! With the Bim Literary Festival And Book Fair just weeks away (May 16-20), we will be celebrating some of our most renowned Barbadian and other Caribbean authors right here at Queen’s Park and the Errol Barrow Centre For Creative Imagination.
The Honourable Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has graciously consented to be patron of the event.
This much anticipated festival is the initiative of Writers Ink, in collaboration with the Ministry of Family, Culture, Youth and Sports; the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus; the Barbados Community College; the National Cultural Foundation and the National Library Service.
For years Barbados has boasted a 98 per cent literacy. Yet, apart from the efforts of the National Cultural Foundation and the Frank Collymore Literary Endowment which should be commended, there has been no major literary event aimed at capturing the attention and imagination of the entire island, its Caribbean neighbours, or writers and book lovers from further afield.
Why such a festival? Hardly anyone would deny that our society is taking a downward slide in the use of the spoken and written word. Television viewing has long replaced our love for reading and the Internet is ever available with its quick-fix information.
The Bim Literary Festival And Book Fair is aiming to arrest the trends above; to remind us of the importance of reading if we are to broaden our minds and gather knowledge effectively; to remind us of our right and responsibility as Caribbean people to cultivate our own ideas and expressions and produce them in written form as testament of our intellectual and creative ability, as well as for posterity.
And what about deepening our capacity for self-reflection; seeing ourselves mirrored in our own books; grasping the importance of our shared or diverse history, politics, culture; understanding the connection between the writer and his/her particular landscape? What about our appreciation of the common humanity of people everywhere? These are the experiences to be shared by all who come to purchase books and absorb the readings.
I’ve used the word “absorbed” because of the amazing line-up of writers we’re expecting to welcome to our shores for the festival. Beginning with the overseas writers, there is our own Barbadian Austin “Tom” Clarke, who presently resides in Toronto and is author of nine novels, among them The Polished Hoe, which won the Giller Prize in 2002.
Trinidadian Earl Lovelace, shortlisted for this year’s Bocas Literary Prize, will also be participating in the festival by way of readings and interviews. He is author of seven novels and short stories, perhaps the best known being The Wine Of Astonishment. In fact, Lovelace will sit on a panel of authors represented on the CXC English B syllabus. This festival event, dubbed Students Meet Authors, will take place at the Barbados Community College.
Lorna Goodison is a Jamaican by birth, author of eight books of poetry, two short story collections and winner of the prestigious Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Canadian National Book Award. There is a uniqueness about Goodison’s poetic voice and her prose captures that same freshness of vision along with an engaging warmth and wit. She has recently published a memoir, From Harvey River.
Goodison’s latest collection of short stories, By Love Possessed, will be launched during the Bim festival. The writer will be reading her work and will sit on the panel mentioned above as well.
The novel, Prospero’s Daughter, a retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, is the most popular of Trinidadian Elizabeth Nunez’s seven novels. She is also editor of an anthology of Caribbean short stories. Nunez, who will be reading from her work, was recently nominated for an NAACP Image Award for outstanding literature.
As Caribbean people, we’re very proud of the fact that St Lucia has produced the Nobel Laureate, Derek Walcott. While the name of this festival has largely to do with Bim, Barbados’ nickname, we’re also linking the event to Bim, the magazine. It is important
to mention that Walcott’s earliest writing appeared in the Bim magazine in the 1950s. He will be joining us to read from his work and to conduct a poetry workshop.
Here is a literary feast indeed! And it’s free to the public. It’s now up to us Barbadians to come out in full support and celebration of what we hope will be an annual event. For further information, please visit us at