Long list announced for OCM Bocas Prize
Port Of Spain – Writers from five Caribbean territories have been long-listed for the 2021 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, sponsored by One Caribbean Media (OCM).
The OCM Bocas prize, now in its eleventh year, is internationally considered the leading literary award for Caribbean writers.
The Prize recognises books in three genres — poetry, fiction, and literary non-fiction — published by authors of Caribbean birth or citizenship in the preceding year.
Of the nine books long-listed for the 2021 Prize, five are by writers born in Trinidad and Tobago, with the other authors representing Dominica, Guyana, Jamaica, and St Lucia.
In the poetry category, the list brings together three writers ranging from a literary veteran to a debut author.
The Dyzgraphxst, the second book by Canada-based St Lucian Canisia Lubrin, is described by the judges as “a journey where meaning is often an unpaved road, but the ride is richly satisfying . . . . Reading this collection makes you hold your breath and dive to the ocean-floor and emerge riding the waves”.
Guabancex is the first poetry collection by Celia Sorhaindo of Dominica – named for a Taíno storm deity, the book was inspired by the impact of 2017’s Hurricane Maria on the author’s home country.
Country of Warm Snow by Trinidadian Mervyn Taylor — the author’s sixth book of poems — tackles the experience of living between two countries over five decades.
The fiction category includes two debut novels and the latest book by a former winner of the OCM Bocas Prize. These Ghosts Are Family, the first book by US-based Jamaican Maisy Card, portrays a family and its entanglements over multiple generations.
It is joined by Love After Love, by UK-based, Trinidad-born Ingrid Persaud — a story of deep love, deep violence, and the meaning of family.
The third book in the category is The Mermaid of Black Conch by UK-based, Trinidad-born Monique Roffey, who previously won the 2013 OCM Bocas Prize for Archipelago.
“Caribbean non-fiction is in excellent hands,” write the judges for this genre, including books ranging from personal essay to memoir to cultural criticism.
Formal innovation continues in the final non-fiction book, the memoir Musings, Mazes, Muses, Margins by Gordon Rohlehr, the eminent Guyanese literary scholar based in Trinidad since the late 1960s. Including autobiography told through a split personality and a playful dream diary, the book shows “at turns, the dark wit of Jouvay, the gleeful frenzy of the Savannah stage, and the contemplation of an Ash Wednesday service”, the judges report.
In the next stage for the OCM Bocas Prize, the judges will announce the winners in the three genres on March 28.
These will then go on to compete for the overall Prize of US$10 000, which will be announced on April 24, during the annual NGC Bocas Lit Fest.
The 2021 judging panels for the OCM Bocas Prize bring together Caribbean and international writers, academics, and literary organisers.
Opal Palmer Adisa, Jamaican poet and head of the University of the West Indies Institute for Gender and Development Studies, chairs the poetry panel, joined by Trinidadian poet Danielle Boodoo-Fortuné and Guyanese-Canadian writer Kaie Kellough. Malachi McIntosh, editor of the journal Wasafiri, chairs the fiction panel, joined by Roland Gulliver, director of the Toronto International Festival of Authors, and writer Tiphanie Yanique of the US Virgin Islands. On the non-fiction panel, chair Rosamond S. King — a Trinidadian-American writer and scholar — is joined by Guyanese-American writer Gaiutra Bahadur and British writer Blake Morrison.
The overall chair of the 2021 cross-genre judging panel is Trinidad-born, UK-based writer Vahni Capildeo, winner of the 2016 Forward Prize. (CMC)