Jason Allen-Paisant, Celeste Mohammed, and Kei Miller

Jason Allen-Paisant, Celeste Mohammed, and Kei Miller are on the shortlist for the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature 2022 announced on March 27, 2022.

The OCM (One Caribbean Media) Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature is an annual award for literary books by Caribbean writers, first handed out 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. Some of the previous overall winners of the prize have been Derek Walcott, Monique Roffey, Kei Miller, and Canisia Lubrin.

The judging panels chaired overall by Trinidadian-British writer Roger Robinson, winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize 2019 brings together Caribbean and international writers, critics, and literary organisers. The longlisted writers and poets in the different categories were announced on February 7 before the shortlists were revealed on Sunday.

The shortlist winners (and judges in each category) are;

Poetry

Judges: Mayra Santos-Febres, Puerto Rican poet, academic, and executive director of Puerto Rico’s Festival de la Palabra (chair), Chloe Garner, artistic director of the UK’s Ledbury Poetry Festival, and Jamaican poet and critic Ishion Hutchinson.

  • Thinking with Trees, Jason Allen-Paisant 
Jason Allen-Paisant
Jason Allen-Paisant

Jason Allen-Paisant is a Lecturer in Comparative Literature at Leeds University. His areas of interest include theatre studies, African diaspora studies, poetics, critical race theory, and performance and justice. He serves as a board member for Leeds University Centre for African Studies (LUCAS) and as a member of the Leeds University Poetry Centre.

The debut book by Jason Allen-Paisant was described by the judges as “original, masterful, and beautiful. It explores nature as a sacred palace for recollection in another tranquillity, far from the one proposed by Wordsworth, a recollection that makes memory present, that heals from the past of marginalisation.”

On winning in his category he simply tweeted, “Thank you, judges!”

Fiction

Judges: British academic and broadcaster Shahidha Bari (chair), T&T-born, US-based writer Anton Nimblett, and Canada-based scholar Christina Sharpe.

  • Pleasantview, Celeste Mohammed
Celeste Mohammed
Celeste Mohammed

Celeste Mohammed is a lawyer-turned-author who studied Creative Writing at Lesley University, Cambridge, Mass. Her work has appeared in The New England Review, Litmag, Epiphany, The Rumpus, among other places. She is the recipient of a 2018 PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers. She was also awarded the 2019 Virginia Woolf Award for Short Fiction, and the 2017 John D Gardner Memorial Prize for Fiction.

The judges called it “an accomplished and powerful debut …. In Mohammed, we have found an exciting new talent.” Set in a fictional but immediately recognisable community in contemporary Trinidad, Pleasantview “has found a daring new way to paint the portrait of a community” through a series of interlocking stories and repeating characters.

The writer who resides in Trinidad said, “What fantastic news on this blessed Sunday! I am proud and, at the same time, humbled.”

Nonfiction

Judges: Belizean jurist, biographer, and former winner of the OCM Bocas Prize for Non-Fiction Godfrey Smith (chair) Canada-based Jamaican writer Rachel Manley, and Guyanese-British writer Anita Sethi.

  • Things I Have Withheld, Kei Miller
Kei Miller
Kei Miller

Kei Miller is a Jamaican poet, fiction writer, essayist and blogger as well as a professor of creative writing at the University of Exeter. He has written the collection of short stories, Fear of Stones and other stories (2006), and the novels The Same Earth (2008), The Last Warner Woman (2010), and Augustown (2016). His poetry collections are Kingdom of Empty Bellies (2006), There Is An Anger That Moves (2007), A Light Song of Light (2010), and The Cartographer Tries to Map A Way to Zion (2014). He has also written the essay collection Things I Have Withheld (2021).

The book is “a deep and stirring excursion into the taboo,” said the judges. “The ‘dark’ places where truth and reality reside, often unrecognised and silent because of fear of discrimination, hatred, and prejudice … Miller summons up his courage and narrative voice as a Black Jamaican gay man to explore these unspoken truths in an unforgettable, layered and moving way.”

Each category winner receives US$3,000 and goes on to compete for the overall Prize of US$10,000, to be announced on Saturday, April 30, during the twelfth annual NGC Bocas Lit Fest.