Canisia Lubrin was announced the winner of the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature 2021 on Sunday, April 24, 2021.
The OCM (One Caribbean Media) Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature is an annual award for literary books by Caribbean writers, first presented in 2011. Books are judged in three categories: poetry; fiction — both novels and collections of short stories; and literary non-fiction — including books of essays, biography and autobiography, history, current affairs, travel, and other genres, which demonstrate literary qualities and use literary techniques, regardless of subject matter. Some of the previous overall winners of the prize have been Derek Walcott, Monique Roffey, and Kei Miller.
The longlists for the 2021 edition of the prize, with overall judge Vahni Capildeo (Trinidad & Tobago/ United Kingdom), were announced on March 14. The winners of the three categories of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction making up the shortlist were revealed on Sunday, March 28. Each of these went home with $3,000, and were in the running for the main prize worth US$10,000.
The winner of this award, announced on Saturday evening, is Canisia Lubrin for her poetry collection The Dyzgraphxst published by McClelland & Stewart. Vahni Capildeo made the announcement online via the Bocas Lit Fest website, Facebook, and YouTube in a virtual presentation. Joining her on the final judging panel for the prize were Jamaican poet and academic Opal Palmer Adisa, Trinidadian-American writer and scholar Rosamond S. King, and Malachi McIntosh, editor of the UK-based literary journal Wasafiri.
Vahni Capildeo said The Dyzgraphxst “is exciting, experimental, and maintains integrity from beginning to end…. Aware of and alive with the impulses and innovations of Aimé Césaire, Dionne Brand, and so many more revolutionary thinkers with whom we have been blessed.”
“These poems take apart our individual personal pronoun, the ‘I’,” said Capildeo, “questioning and finding new ways to feel and think and know what we suppose to be our ‘self’. Some books use language to keep running smoothly. This book shifts what language can be and do. It is thrilling to read it and to relish giving up the illusion of mastery of meaning; to revel in not fully understanding, like swimming beyond the breakers in a sea full of flotsam and jetsam.”
Canisia Lubrin on her part Tweeted, “Deepest appreciation to all of the judges and to chief judge Vahni Capildeo for this invitation & continuance. Big congratulations [email protected] Maisy. I celebrate those long-listed and the poets alongside who put lines into the world in 2020. All @ M&S. Brand.”