Bocas Poetry Slam prize goes to $50,000

A report by Joan Rampersad for Trinidad’s Guardian.

AT THE launch of the 2017 NGC Bocas Lit Fest held the National Library of Trinidad and Tobago (Nalis) in Portof- Spain on Wednesday, Jason Julien, deputy CEO, Business Generation, First Citizens, said it was quite rare to find avenues that truly advocate literacy and community development as one.

He said that not only does the National Poetry Slam segment of the festival empower participants literally, but those exposed to the offering become equipped with sufficient knowledge to broaden their horizon and help others build a better life.

He then announced that First Citizens would retain the lead sponsor title of the National Poetry Slam. The first place winner will receive $50,000 — more than double the 2016 prize money.

Julien also called on participants to be responsible when crafting their pieces and that quality should remain their top priority.

Before him, Lisa Burkett, manager corporate communications of the National Gas Company said: “For us at NGC, it’s always been a thrill to partner with Bocas, now even more so, as the event keeps evolving and expanding. It was named among the world’s top 20 literary festivals by Penguin Random House – The Writers’ Academy.

“Next month’s edition of the festival will take on the extremely topical issue of human rights.

Violence against women, against children, human trafficking and general aggression upon our freedom to move and do as we please.

These are all top-of-mind concerns for Trinbagonians, and Bocas promises to build on the national conversation around them through insightful panel discussions.” Festival founder and director Marina Salandy-Brown revealed that Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley will also be taking part in the festival. She said: “There are so many poets, novelists and other writers in our festival lineup, ranging from eminences like Jamaican poet Edward Baugh, Cuban poet and translator Nancy Morejón, and Guyanese David Dabydeen, to the exciting younger talent, like the Jamaicans Ishion Hutchinson and Safiya Sinclair, Guyanese-American Rajiv Mohabir and homegrown Trinidadian talent like Kevin Jared Hosein and Aaliyah Eniath.

We’ll be welcoming the Kenyan author Peter Kimani whose debut novel is making waves internationally, and the American writer Eliot Weinberger, best known for his incisive political essays.

We’ll also be launching a new novel by our own Jennifer Rahim, Curfew Chronicles, a penetrating look at very recent events in TT ’s history.

And we’ll host a one-on-one conversation with a recent debut author from TT who is perhaps better known for his political career, one Dr Keith Rowley, who’ll join us, not in his capacity as prime minister, but as a writer, discussing his memoir From Mason Hall to Whitehall.” The NGC Bocas Lit Fest is Trinidad and Tobago’s annual festival of books, writers, and ideas and the Anglophone Caribbean’s largest celebration of literature.

This year, it takes place from April 26 to 30. The festival also includes a full programme of activities for younger readers via the NGC Bocas Children’s Lit Fest when there will be a month-long, nationwide storytelling caravan on Saturdays during April, plus readings, creative writing workshops and performances by children’s authors at the core five-day festival.

The core activities of Bocas 2017 take place at the Nalis and the adjoining Old Fire Station on Abercromby Street, Portof- Spain.

Salandy-Brown stated the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and Arts has come on board as a main sponsor for the 2017 festival. She announced the 2017 winner of the Bocas Henry Swanzy Award for Distinguished Service to Caribbean Letters, is Joan Dayal of Paper Based Bookshop located at The Normandie, St Ann’s.

She said since the 2016 festival, André Alexis who is based in Canada but was born in Port-of-Spain will be awarded the prestigious Windham- Campbell Prize, administered by Yale University, while poet Vahni Capildeo, was named the winner of the Forward Prize, a leading international award for poetry.

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