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2015 OCM Bocas Longlist Announced

The 2015 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature Longlist

The longlist for the 2015 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, comprising nine poets, fiction and non-fiction writers from across the region has been announced. The longlisted writers, vying for both category award as well as the overall prize of US$10,000 hail from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda and the US Virgin Islands.

The poetry list could be a hint of a changing of the guard in Caribbean poetry, as all three nominated writers fall below the 40 year threshold. Two Jamaican poets, Tanya Shirley and Kei Miller and St. Lucian Vladimir Lucien comprise the list. Miller, who earned the non-fiction prize for Writing Down the Vision in the 2014 Bocas Prize is making his third appearance on the awards longlist, now with his much celebrated collection The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion. His collection A Light Song in a Book of Light had been longlisted for the inaugural Bocas Prize. 

The Cartographer will contend with Tanya Shirley’s sophomore collection The Merchant of Feathers and Vladimir Lucien’s Sounding Ground for this year’s poetry prize and ultimately, a chance at the main prize.

The fiction list has been spread across Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and the US Virgin Islands. Marlon James’ epic A Brief History of Seven Killings is easily the heavyweight in this category. However to get to the main prize it must first fend off US Virgin Islander Tiphanie Yanique’s Land of Love and Drowning and Trinidadian Monique Roffey’s House of Ashes. Roffey is the 2013 winner of the 2013 OCM Bocas Prize with Archipelago while Yanique earned the 2011 fiction prize for her debut novel How to Escape from a Leper Colony.

With regard to the islands from which the writers hail, the non-fiction category is a near repeat of the fiction list. Trinidad’s Elizabeth Nunez with her family memoir Not for Everyday Use vies for the prize along with Jamaica’s Olive Senior whose Dying to Better Themselves: West Indies and the Building of the Panama Canal takes a look at the building of the Panama Canal. The non-fiction triangle is completed by Antigua and Barbuda’s Dorbrene E. O’Marde with the biography King Short Shirt: Nobody Go Run Me.

The Prize shortlist comprising the winners in the three categories will be announced on 1 April. The 2015 Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature will be presented on Saturday 2 May, during the fifth annual NGC Bocas Lit fest in Port of Spain.

Barbadian Austin Clarke is the overall chair of the 2015 OCM Bocas Prize and is joined in the adjudication by an impressive group of international writers, academics and publishing professionals. The fiction panel is chaired by literary agent Clare Alexander includes writer Nalo Hopkinson and agent Ria Julien. Carolyn Cooper chairs the non-fiction panel which also comprises academic Silvio Torres-Saillant and magazine editor Bhaskar Sunkara. The poetry panel features poets Pamela Mordecai and Patience Agbabi and is chaired by academic Laurence A. Breiner. Marjorie Thorpe is the permanent vice-chair.