3 writers vie for top Bocas prize

Richard Georges -
Richard Georges -

Books by three writers spanning the region and its diasporas have been shortlisted for the 2020 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature.

Internationally considered the leading literary award for Caribbean writers, the OCM Bocas Prize recognises books in three genre categories – poetry, fiction, and literary non-fiction – published by Caribbean authors in the preceding year.

Awarded for the tenth time this year, the prize is a highlight of the NGC Bocas Lit Fest, the Anglophone Caribbean’s biggest annual literary festival.

The winners of the three genre categories, announced yesterday, will now enter the final round of judging, and vie for the overall award of US$10,000.


Epiphaneia, the third collection by Richard Georges of the British Virgin Islands, is the winner in the poetry category, said a media release. Commenting on the collection, the judges write: “In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, Epiphaneia takes a deep breath and presents us with poems that outlast the storm, but sound the depths of survival and resilience, rather than being content to take refuge in them. Here we are enabled to comprehend disaster with an alertness to complexity that carries us beyond the usual triad of narrative, lamentation, and outrage. Everywhere there is sinuous rhythmic and semantic syncopation...in service of a poetic with urgent and palpable stakes.”

In the fiction category, the winner is Everything Inside, a collection of short fiction by the celebrated Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat. The judges commend these “profoundly resonant short stories about characters caught between two worlds, their painful pasts all the more moving for being subtly delivered, so the full weight of their experience gathers in the reader’s consciousness after putting down the book. The fluidity of Danticat’s prose and her delicate blend of passion and compassion sweep the reader along and lift us through the essential humanity and resilience of her central characters.”

Tessa McWatt -

The winner of the non-fiction category is Shame on Me, by Guyana-born, Canada-bred, UK-based Tessa McWatt. The judges described this book as "beautifully written." They write, “This book is a meditation on race, belonging, identity, family, and migration, organised with chapters (including family photographs) on nose, lips, eyes, hair, a--, bones, skin, and blood. The mixed-race author reflects on what it means to be ‘mixed,’ to have many ‘racial’ identities, to have no clear ‘place’ to belong to. This is a beautifully written, profoundly moving and deeply reflective book.”

The final cross-genre judging panel for the 2020 OCM Bocas Prize is chaired by Earl Lovelace, TT’s revered author and himself a past winner. He is joined by the respective chairs of the poetry, fiction, and non-fiction panels: literary scholar Laurence A Breiner, linguist and novelist Barbara Lalla, and historian Bridget Brereton.

The overall winner will be announced on Saturday, May 2, during a special online event hosted by the NGC Bocas Lit Fest.

Past winners of the OCM Bocas Prize are Kevin Browne, for High Mas (2019); Jennifer Rahim, for Curfew Chronicles (2018); Kei Miller, for Augustown (2017); Olive Senior, for The Pain Tree (2016), Vladimir Lucien, for Sounding Ground (2015); Robert Antoni, for As Flies to Whatless Boys (2014); Monique Roffey, for Archipelago (2013); and Earl Lovelace for Is Just a Movie (2012). Nobel laureate Derek Walcott was winner of the inaugural prize in 2011, for his poetry collection White Egrets.

The 2020 OCM Bocas Prize shortlist:

Poetry winner

Epiphaneia, by Richard Georges

Fiction winner

Everything Inside, by Edwidge Danticat

Non-fiction winner

Shame on Me: An Anatomy of Race and Belonging, by Tessa McWatt


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