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After The 2017 BOCAS

Posted: May 6th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Column | No Comments »

Nathalie Taghaboni, the author of the very popular T&T contemporary lit novels called the Savanoy Series, follows up her first guest post on my blog with an after note about her experience as a festival author in the annual NGC Bocas Lit Fest, which came to a close on April 30 in Port-of-Spain.

Nathalie Taghaboni signs her book Santimanitay for writer and elder Eintou Springer, at the launch of Nathalie’s newest book in the Savanoy Series, Side by Side we Stand, at Big Black Box, Woodbrook, on April 23. Photo courtesy: EJ McKenzie.

 

I survived my first Bocas Lit Fest! Not only did I survive, I thrived. Not only did I thrive, I want to do it again. Oh my goodness, I had a time!

Letting a writer loose in an event like this is comparable to … let me think. A child let loose in Disney? A liar let loose in Washington? There were books and authors and presentations and books and workshops and books and performances and literary giants and, did I mention, BOOKS?

At one (several) point I considered cashing in my retirement savings and pawning my dentures so that I could sweep all those books off the booksellers’ tables and pack a barrel to ship up to my home address.

I giggled like a fool to stand next to Earl Lovelace—who probably never realised I was there. I recognized faces I’d only ever seen on the back of a well-read novel. I gaped and gawked and sidled up to people. On Friday, April 28, the day of my panel presentation, I just wanted to sit on the stage and stare back at people who actually came to hear us talk about our passion for writing and the stories that came out of it.

The next day I hurried back down to NALIS, the main festival venue, where the irrepressible Lisa Allen-Agostini invited me to take in a workshop led by Rosamond S King on “How to Witness Your Own Writing”. In that workshop were brand spanking new poets coming into their own and seasoned veterans honing their craft and me. How could I help but learn and broaden my horizons?

My hat is off to the management of Bocas for being able to pull this off these past seven years. The amount of scheduling and corralling of talent and mind boggling logistics that must go on behind the scenes makes my head spin and I can only see this event growing and becoming a must-attend for everyone.

I hope more people locally not just attend but participate. The vision of the founders is on point and I advise all, new writers especially, to learn more about the event. While it is only a few days long in April, it provides a lifetime of learning and a lifeline to us all.

For me, reading brings life and consciousness, and writing gives breath and scope and provides a language to express ourselves and share experiences.

To borrow a phrase from one of my readers, Bocas is “literally lit”!


My Bocas 2017

Posted: May 2nd, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Awards, Books, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

#bocas2017 CODE Org Burt Award ceremony: Puerto Rican writer Viviana Prado-Núñez scooped the first prize for her self-published novel The Art of White Roses. Here she is receiving her award from Chief Justice Ivor Archie, ORTT. Photo courtesy: Marlon James/ NGC Bocas Lit Fest. (Caption taken from the Bocas Facebook page.)

This year’s NGC Bocas Lit Fest was amazing. I mean, I say that every year; the festival is such a boon to the public and the writers of Trinidad and Tobago. This year I had the pleasure and privilege of not only being a prize-winner at the festival, but I got to give a talk to secondary school students about writing; I got to judge a spoken word competition (the First Citizens National Poetry Slam), and to meet and interact with authors from around the world.

There were the regulars, with whom I have communed here and in Jamaica—the Kei Millers, Carolyn Coopers, Eddie Baughs, Monique Roffeys and Philip Nantons—they’re here at Bocas regularly, if not annually. Seeing them in the corridors of the National Library of Port-of-Spain is reassuring and delightful. They bring their grace and talent to us here and I never take them for granted.

Kei Miller giving his acceptance speech after winning the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature. Well deserved. Photo: Marlon James/ NGC Bocas Lit Fest

This year I also got to meet new Caribbean writers like Safiya Sinclair, author of the OCM Bocas Prize for Poetry for her new collection Cannibal; and international stars like the gifted essayist Eliot Weinberger, whose essay on the stars made me hold my breath when he read it at the festival. (It’s at the seven-minute mark on the video, or thereabouts.)

One-on-One with Eliot Weinberger

The eminent American writer and translator talks to Nicholas Laughlin about his explorations in the art of the essay, from history to natural science to politics.

Posted by Bocas Lit Fest on Saturday, April 29, 2017

I had the enormous pleasure of seeing Trinidad Noir: The Classics celebrated in a pre-launch event where its co-editor Earl Lovelace read his indeed classic story “Jobell and America”, and where host elisha efua bartels read from her story “Woman is Boss” from the original Trinidad Noir.

I had the thrilling opportunity to meet the extraordinary young writer from Puerto Rico, Viviana Prado Nunez, whose novel The Art of White Roses won the Young Adult literature prize CODE Burt Award for Caribbean Literature (I came third in the contest with my manuscript Waiting for the Bus, and my fellow Trini Kevin Jared Hosein came second with his dark tale The Beast of Kukuyo). And the pleasure of hearing Kenyan journalist and fiction writer Peter Kimani, author of the new international hit novel Dance of the Jakaranda, read—and sing!—from this glorious, textured work.

One-on-One with Peter Kimani

The Kenyan author of Dance of the Jakaranda talks to Johnny Temple about his transition from journalism to fiction-writing, and the literary scene in East Africa.

Posted by Bocas Lit Fest on Saturday, April 29, 2017

One of the unexpected highlights for me was judging the Slam. (I was a last-minute replacement for a judge who was unable to make it to the show.) Here were some undeniably talented young people, competing for the mindblowing prize of TT $50,000. They went all out and gave their blood, sweat and tears to the packed audience at NAPA. Happily, the audience agreed with the judges’ decision! (Head judge was the dazzling poet Anthony Joseph, with Philip Nanton, Safiya Sinclair, and UWI, St Augustine, head of the MFA programme Muli Amaye and I also on the panel.)

Congratulations to Camryn L. Bruno, winner of the Grand Slam: 2017 First Citizens National Poetry Slam Finals! Here she is, holding her $50,000 cheque, flanked by second and third place finalists Alex Stewart and Idrees Jali Saleem.
Bruno, Stewart, Saleem and their fellow finalists performed to a legion of fans, community members in the arts, and #bocas2017 attendees: the NGC Bocas Lit Fest salutes the #FCNPS2017 competitors for their bravery, talent and dedication to sharing their all on the Caribbean’s largest spoken word stage.
Photo by Marlon James, official Bocas Lit Fest photographer.
(Caption taken from the Bocas Facebook page)

Bocas is a gift. I am thankful.