Bocas Swanzy Award Honours Trinidad-born Sandra Pouchet Paquet 

Bocas Lit Fest recently announced that the winner of the 2023 Bocas Henry Swanzy Award for Distinguished Service to Caribbean Letters will be given to Trinidad-born scholar Sandra Pouchet Paquet “in recognition of her pioneering contributions to the fields of academia, literature, and cultural studies.” The Bocas Henry Swanzy Award will be formally presented to Sandra Pouchet Paquet on Saturday, April 29, as part of the 2023 NGC Bocas Lit Fest’s prize ceremony. The 2023 NGC Bocas Lit Fest runs from April 28 to 30.

The influence of Trinidad-born, US-based Caribbeanist scholar Sandra Pouchet Paquet in shaping decades of intellectual and critical thought is impossible to understate. This year, the Bocas Lit Fest is awarding her the 2023 Bocas Henry Swanzy Award for Distinguished Service to Caribbean Letters, in recognition of her pioneering contributions to the fields of academia, literature, and cultural studies.

Founded in 2013, the Bocas Henry Swanzy Award is named for Anglo-Irish radio producer Henry Swanzy, whose tenure at the Caribbean Voices programme from 1946 to 1954 engaged the work of West Indian writers with insight and depth. Following in the footsteps of Jamaican Una Marson, who founded Caribbean Voices, Swanzy’s role in foregrounding Caribbean literature to an international audience was without parallel.

Created by the Bocas Lit Fest in Swanzy’s memory, this award celebrates the contributions of editors, broadcasters, publishers, critics, and others who have devoted their careers to developing Caribbean literature. These champions of Caribbean letters often worked behind the scenes and without fanfare. Bocas Henry Swanzy Awardees are chosen by the festival’s organising committee and honoured annually at the NGC Bocas Lit Fest.

In conferring this award on Pouchet Paquet, the Bocas Lit Fest recognises her generous innovations in the field of Caribbean literary studies. One of the first Caribbeanist scholars at a US university, Pouchet Paquet entered a field that was in flux, and committed herself to its transformation. In the 1990s, in addition to educating and mentoring students, she directed the University of Miami’s Caribbean Writers Summer Institute, a groundbreaking initiative that shaped the careers of a generation of authors who soon became leading figures in Caribbean literature.

With her founding in 2003 of Anthurium: A Caribbean Studies Journal, Pouchet Paquet established an early born-digital journal that would swiftly be regarded as a rich repository for peer-reviewed scholarship of both academic and creative foundations.

Born in Trinidad, Sandra Pouchet Paquet pursued undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in the United States. After a transformational three-year period of teaching at the University of the West Indies, Mona (1974–77), Pouchet Paquet took on Assistant Professorships at the Universities of Hartford and Pennsylvania before her developmental journey with the University of Miami began. Her advocacy for the study, inclusion, and interweaving of Caribbean scholarship into the wider academic community characterised her pedagogy at its earliest levels, and strengthened upon each appointment.

Powerful and generative connections with Derek Walcott and George Lamming would keenly impact Pouchet Paquet’s career and its directions. Crediting Lamming with being her first true educator in Caribbean literature, Pouchet Paquet’s own critical writings on Lamming’s work have been prolific, sustained, and vigorous: her book The Novels of George Lamming (Heinemann, 1980) remains a seminal text. 

The range of interests across her other books and journal publications is testament to a keenly engaged critical consciousness, one committed to exploring Caribbean feminisms, Afro-Caribbean studies, and studies of the diaspora, among numerous areas of interest. [. . .]

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