Maisy Card, Andre Bagoo, and Canisia Lubrin make up the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature 2021 shortlist announced on Sunday, March 28, 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 revealed on Sunday, each pocketing $3,000, make the shortlist for the overall prize. They are;
Poetry – The Dyzgraphxst by Canisia Lubrin (McClelland & Stewart)
Judges: Opal Palmer Adisa (Chief Judge) (Jamaica), Kaie Kellough (Canada), Danielle Boodoo-Fortuné (Trinidad & Tobago).
“Reading this collection makes you hold your breath and dive to the ocean-floor and emerge riding the waves,” wrote the judges in their citation. “A concern for our world, and a speaking out against exploitation and climate disaster, remain central, intact, and allow necessity to direct the experimentation. These are not easy poems, but there is undeniable music to them, a tidal ebb and flow beneath the complexities of language and questions of identity, place and environmental concerns.”
Fiction: These Ghosts Are Family by Maisy Card (Simon & Schuster)
Judges: Malachi McIntosh (United Kingdom), Tiphanie Yanique (US Virgin Islands/ USA), Roland Gulliver (United Kingdom).
“At its heart is the story of Caribbean enslavement and the legacy of trauma it has passed down from generation to generation, but the way it tackles this live and current theme is always fresh and innovative,” said the judges. “The novel, across chapters, consistently surprises with the courses it takes and the outcomes of its scenes — the control over the material evident from the earliest chapters.”
Nonfiction – The Undiscovered Country by Andre Bagoo (Peepal Tree Press)
Judges: Rosamond S. King (Trinidad and Tobago / USA), Blake Morrison (United Kingdom), Gaiutra Bahadur (Guyana/ USA).
The judges praised it as “a wonderfully intelligent and wide-ranging book. There’s a touch of humour in much of this book, with some essays focused on particular works of art, and others telescoping out to analyse pressing political questions. Innovative and insightful, knowledgeable about both film and fiction, written by an author who is up front about surveying literature and politics as a gay man, it’s much more than a collection of essays.”
The overall winner, to receive US$10,000, will be announced during the virtual NGC Bocas Lit Fest on April 24, 2021.