Welcome to the most recent instalment of the Bocas Book Bulletin, amonthly round-up of Caribbean literary news, curated by the NGC Bocas Lit Fest, Trinidad and Tobago’s annual literary festival, and published in theSunday Express.
Narcissus (Broken Sleep Books), the fourth full collection of poems by Trinidadian Andre Bagoo, draws on Ancient Greek myth-specifically, the story of the attractive doomed youth who becomes obsessed along with his own image-to explore queerness and violence, and the entanglements between body and spirit, the human and the non-human. As concerned with the natural world as with art and music, these poems experiment with form, register, and voice, often hovering somewhere between desire and memory, fulfilment and disappointment.
Tropic Death (Simi Press), the acclaimed collection of short stories by Guyanese Eric Walrond, has been reissued nearly a century after its original publication in 1926. Born in Georgetown in 1898, Walrond migrated to New York City on the age of 19, and quickly entered the literary and mental circles of the Harlem Renaissance. Set within the Caribbean and Central America throughout the construction of the Panama Canal, these stories portray the lives of working-class men and ladies on the turn of the century. The cruelty and violence of colonial life and the character’s obliviousness to human suffering are inescapable in these powerful works of short fiction.
Alexander Bedward, the Prophet of August Town: Race, Religion and Colonialism (University of the West Indies Press), by historian Dave St Aubyn Gosse, is a study of a historical figure once considered a joke, now being recognised as a very important black nationalist thinker. The Jamaican Revivalist preacher Alexander Bedward, born in 1848, won an islandwide following for his teachings difficult racist colonial laws and conventions.He spent the last decade of his life in a mental asylum, but Gosse argues that the portrayal of Bedward as a comic book eccentric was a part of a deliberate colonial policy to suppress his influence and his ideas about black self-sufficiency, which make him a very important precursor to Marcus Garvey
Black Man Listen: The Lifetime of JR Ralph Casimir (Papillote Press), by Kathy Casimir MacLean,is a biography of Dominica’s leading Pan-African activist, written by his granddaughter. Born in 1898 and having fun with a lifespan of nearly a century, Casimir was a poet, journalist, editor, and teacher, in addition to the overall secretary of Dominica’s branch of Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association. An everyday contributor to the UNIA newspaper Negro World, Casimir also served as a town councillor for Roseau, and was a key figure in early efforts towards Caribbean selfgovernment and regional unity.
AWARDS + PRIZES
The 2022 NGC Bocas Youth Author Award is open for nominations, with a deadline of October 15. The award celebrates Trinidad and Tobago writers under the age of 25 in any genre, including poetry, playwriting, fiction, creative non-fiction, journalism, scriptwriting, spoken word, blog writing, and song lyrics. Judges consider each the standard of the nominees’ writing and its public and social impact. The winner will receive a money prize of $5,000.
For full information and the web nomination form, visit www.bocaslitfest. com/youth/writeraward.
The 2023 OCM Bocas Prize also stays open for entries. Sponsored by One Caribbean Media, and awarded annually since 2011, the cross-genre prize-for books of poetry, fiction, and literary non-fiction-is considered probably the most prestigious award for writers of Caribbean birth or citizenship. The 2023 prize is open to books published within the calendar 12 months 2022. The general winner is chosen from the three genre category winners and is featured on the annual NGC Bocas Lit Fest, the Anglophone Caribbean’s biggest literary festival. For full information, including deadline dates and eligibility and submission guidelines, visit www. bocaslitfest.com/awards/ocm.
The First Residents National Poetry Slam brought its tenth anniversary to an in depth by returning to the physical stage for the finals. The long-awaited, in-person event was held on the Naparima Bowl on October 9, with a ticket price of $200. Audiences enhoyed to powerful performances by the Slam finalists as they challenged defending champion Derron Sandy for the grand prize of $50,000 and the coveted title of the FCNPS winner.
The winner was Alexandra Stewart who topped a formidable field of 11 poets to win the coveted prize. The Port of Spain-born poetess wore a red hood and delivered a gut-wrenching exposé about women being vulnerable to predatory wolves in Trinidad and Tobago, en path to her third Poetry Slam title. Stewart, who won back-to-back titles in 2019 and 2020, asked how women were to inform the difference between “loving and dangerous arms” when wolves wear “the skin of excellent men”.
Second and third-place winners were Kevin Soyer and Derron Sandy who received $20,000 and $10,000 respectively, courtesy First Residents.
The second annual NGC Bocas Youth Fest features a fun, free, daylong event on Saturday, October 22, at The Writers Centre on Alcazar Street in St Clair. Aimed toward young writers, readers, and creatives as much as age 25, the programme includes performances of spoken word and music, a ‘Big Idea’ debate, and informal sessions on ‘Writing My Profession’ and the worth of literary arts in various creative fields.
For more information, visit www. bocaslitfest.com.