A prize of our own

by Nicholas Laughlin on November 4, 2010

Rainbow bookshelves

Photograph by Juhan Sonin, posted at Flickr under a Creative Commons license

The Caribbean’s rich literary heritage — in multiple languages — has made a contribution to world culture well out of proportion to the region’s small size. We have produced winners of many literary awards, including three Nobel laureates — Saint-John Perse (1960), Derek Walcott (1992), and V.S. Naipaul (2001). But until now there has been no indigenous Caribbean literary award, organised and judged by Caribbean people, of genuinely international scope.

— So say the organisers of the new OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, which was announced this morning in St Augustine, Trinidad.

The OCM Bocas Prize, which will be awarded for the first time in April 2011, will honour the best book of poetry, fiction, or literary non-fiction by a Caribbean writer each year. It comes with a cash award of US$10,000, sponsored by the One Caribbean Media Group. The prize is administered by a new literary festival, the Bocas Lit Fest, based in Port of Spain and with satellite events around Trinidad and Tobago. The first Bocas Lit Fest runs from 28 April to 1 May, 2011, and the OCM Bocas Prize ceremony is scheduled for Saturday 30 April.

(Where does the name come from? Boca is Spanish for mouth, and the Bocas del Dragón — the Dragon’s Mouths — are the narrow sea passages connecting the Gulf of Paria to the Caribbean Sea. For centuries the Bocas were the gateway between Trinidad and the rest of the world. And the mouth is the organ of speech and song — the human body’s gateway for literary expression.)

The CRB is very pleased to be a media partner for both the festival and the prize (and your Antilles blogger and CRB editor is on the organising committee for both). It’s high time we had a major literary festival here at the southern end of the Caribbean, and a literary prize of regional scope and international stature is also long overdue.

The Bocas Lit Fest programme and the list of participating writers will be announced in early 2011. And the OCM Bocas Prize opens to entries on 8 November (you can download the submission guidelines and entry form here). Antilles will post regular updates on both festival and prize in the coming months — and you can also keep up with Bocas news via Twitter.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Yasmin November 6, 2010 at 1:26 pm

This is really exciting news! Both the OCM Bocas Prize and the new Bocas Lit Fest are very positive contributions to Caribbean literature and culture. I hope that aspiring writers will be motivated by this prize, as well as the Bocas Lit Fest.

carol H November 6, 2010 at 5:47 pm

Brilliant idea, and long overdue. It will provide greater exposure, and grant unsung Caribbean writers the permission to value themselves and their craft for their unique contribution to their own society, if not the world at large. Well done to those responsible.

guyana gyal November 15, 2010 at 11:15 am

This is so exciting, I can’t take it all in right now. I will have to come back, nibble, digest, nibble.

I now feel extra-motivated to work on my two manuscripts, seek publishers.

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