PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – Six books by writers from five Caribbean countries have been announced on the longlist for the 2018 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature.
Considered the leading literary award for Caribbean writers, the Prize recognises books in three genre categories — poetry, fiction, and literary non-fiction — published by Caribbean authors in the preceding year. The writers on the 2018 longlist range from internationally celebrated prizewinners to debut authors.
In the poetry category, the longlist brings together writers at different career stages.
Barbadian Kamau Brathwaite’s Liviticus, a troubling account of what the poet calls his “cultural lynching,” has been described as “a monument to sorrow that cherishes our origins.” Brathwaite, recently honoured internationally with the PEN/Voelcker Award, has long been considered one of the Caribbean’s leading poets.
Bahamian Sonia Farmer is a debut poet whose first full-length book, Infidelities, is also named to the Prize longlist. Inspired by the life of the eighteenth-century Irish-born pirate Anne Bonny, Farmer’s poems explore female independence, trauma, and desire, interweaving historical and contemporary perspectives.
The final longlisted book in the poetry category, Madwoman, by Shara McCallum, similarly charts female perspectives from girlhood to motherhood, asking how our identities are shaped over time. This is the fifth book by the US-based Jamaican author.
In addition to the three longlisted books, the poetry judges have named Pitch Lake, by Trinidadian Andre Bagoo, for honourable mention.
In the fiction category, all three longlisted books are collections of short fiction, for the first time in the history of the OCM Bocas Prize.
If I Had the Wings, the debut book by US-based Bahamian Helen Klonaris, collects powerful, lyrical stories about queer coming-of-age and family relationships in the contemporary Bahamas.
Curfew Chronicles, by Trinidadian Jennifer Rahim, is a series of linked short stories unfolding over a period of twenty-four hours, with a cast of interconnected characters from all levels of society. The book offers a vivid portrait of a society at a moment of crisis, and the interpersonal bonds that shape and are shaped by public events.
And Tell No-One About This, by Jacob Ross, ranges from the author’s native Grenada to Britain, where he settled later in life, and over a forty-year sweep of Caribbean history. From stories of childhood self-discovery to intimate accounts of the lives of resilient women, Ross’s short fictions share a poetic grounding in their landscapes.
In addition to the longlisted books, the fiction judges also named an honourable mention: Come Let Us Sing Anyway, by Jamaican-British Leone Ross.
The 2018 OCM Bocas Prize non-fiction judges have made an unprecedented decision to name no titles to the longlist.
“While a few books stood head and shoulders above the rest,” write the judges, “even those had obvious shortcomings, and we believe that this prize ought to be awarded for achievement, not for effort.” None of the eligible books, the judges continue, “could be held to represent the best of regional writing.”
The winners in the poetry and fiction genre categories will be announced on April 2, and the Prize of US$10,000 will be presented to the overall winner on April 28, during the eighth annual NGC Bocas Lit Fest in Port of Spain on 25–29 April.