TODAY one of the highlights of Trinidad and Tobago’s cultural life opens its eighth edition.
The Bocas Lit Fest is a showcase of literary talent from the Caribbean Diaspora and around the globe. Writers at all stages of their careers get a chance to mingle with seasoned veterans as well as key publishing industry figures.
And readers are treated to a rich programme of more than 100 events. There is something for everyone.
At a time when there is so much wrong with our society, initiatives like this literary festival are important beacons of hope. Alongside organisations such as the Adult Literacy Tutors Association, Moms for Literacy Caribbean, and the Dyslexia Association of Trinidad and Tobago, Bocas does tremendous work in bolstering literacy through its range of activities that nurture a critical appreciation of literary texts and nourish the kind of debate that shapes our society.
This is even more important given the social media age within which we live in which information comes to us in an endless barrage of small snippets and tweets. There is less emphasis on sustained reading and analysis. The price is a breakdown in language and discourse, ironically at the point when such discourse has been most enabled by modern technology.
In partnership with the Bocas Lit Fest, we too are doing our own little part in encouraging our writers to tell our stories through sponsorship of the Trinidad and Tobago People’s Choice Book of the Year Award.
One of the most heartening aspects of the annual literary festival is its ability to attract large numbers of youth, particularly in its spoken word competitions. Spoken word poetry has become a vibrant and powerful tool for a new generation of citizens who have literally found their voice.
We need to focus, as the Bocas Lit Fest has, on nurturing young talent through the bestowing of key prizes as well as workshops and mentoring. We also need to do as much as we can to support efforts to nourish a local publishing industry at a time when such an industry is badly needed.
Literature is about ideas and imagination. It is how we define ourselves as individuals and as a society. It is also an arena in which we reflect on history and on the dreams and aspirations we all have as an independent nation state. We must do as much as we can to support it.
It is to the credit of the organisers of the festival that they have been able to consistently offer high-quality programming free of charge to the public. That has enabled thousands to partake of this rare good story in our troubled nation.