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Bocas on Dub: Bocas Literary Fest Shines Light on Dub Poetry

Mikey Smith and Linton Kwesi Johnson

When the 4th installment of the Bocas Literary Festival gets underway on Wednesday April 23, dub poetry will get much of the spotlight, amongst the over 60 events that make up this year’s festival programme. 

A major highlight of the Bocas ‘dub version’ will be the presence of poet Linton Kwesi Johnson, who is this year’s chair of the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, which will be announced on Saturday, April 26, 2014. Kei Miller’s Writing Down the Vision (non-fiction), Lorna Goodison’s Oracabessa (poetry) and Robert Antoni’s As Flies to Whatless Boys (fiction) are the contenders for this year’s US$10,000 award.

Bocas attendees will get a hearty serving of Johnson, through poetry and film as well as an interview. The film element comes via the works of British filmmaker Anthony Wall, whose works will be screened on Friday and Saturday, April 25 and 26. These include Brixton to Barbados, which chronicles Johnson’s 1981 journey from Brixton, England to staging of Carifesta in Barbados as well as Caribbean Journey a ‘personal report’ by Johnson on the ties between the Caribbean and England since the Elizabethan Era. 

Additionally, Johnson will share thoughts on his life in literature, music and politics  in a One-on-One interview with Anthony Joseph. Also slated for Friday, the interview takes place at the Old Fire Station. 

Yet Johnson is not the only dub poet who will have his moment in the literary limelight, as some will be shed on the late Mikey Smith who is featured in the Anthony Wall film Upon Westminster Bridge another of the shorts being screened at the festival. 

Friday evening culminates with ‘The Living Word’ a celebration of Caribbean performance poetry traditions to mark Mikey Smith’s 60th year. Smith, who was stoned to death on August 17, 1983, was actually born on September 14. ‘The Living Word’ will feature a slew of poets including Mervyn Morris, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Lorna Goodison, Kwame Dawes, Vahni Capildeo, Malika Booker and Vladimir Lucien.

The dub element of the festival culminates on Saturday morning with a conversation being titled ‘To Dub or Not to Dub’ featuring Kei Miller, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Lorna Goodison and Lauren Alleyne who discuss whether dub poetry remains relevant. The conversation will be chaired by Vladimir Lucien.

The Bocas Literary Festival takes place at the National Library of Trinidad and Tobago, Port of Spain, from Wednesday, April 23, to Sunday April 27, 2014.