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Robert Antoni Wins OCM Bocas Prize 2014
Robert Antoni’s As Flies to Whatless Boys copped the fourth OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature and in an unprecedented move, (at least in the awards short but distinguished life) he decided that he would share his winnings with the two other shortlisted writers Lorna Goodison (Oracabesa) and Kei Miller (Writing Down the Vision).
“You can’t compare oranges to mangoes,” Antoni said, citing Goodison from a conversation that the two had had earlier in the day. He was remarking on the fact that the Bocas Prize is contended by writers of poetry, fiction and literary non-fiction. Antoni’s As Flies to Whatless Boys had been the winner of the fiction segment, while Goodison’s Oracabesa won the poetry prize and Miller received the prize for literary non-fiction.
“It’s up to us in the Caribbean to decide who we are,” Antoni said in his short acceptance speech, explaining that he believed in the value of the OCM Bocas Prize.
“My dear friend Lorna, my new friend Kei are winners” said Robert Antoni during his brief acceptance speech. “and because of that, whatever the cash prize is, I’d like to share it between the three of us.”
Antoni had copped the overall prize of US$10,000.
Linton Kwesi Johnson, chief judge of the 2014 prize, explained that he has insisted that the judges come to a consensus about the winner.
“Having read each book at least twice, I could empathize with the judges,” Kwesi Johnson said, noting the calibre of the three shortlisted books.
The poetry section of the prize was chaired by Prof Mervyn Morris, while Kenneth Ramchand chaired non-fiction and Hazel Simmons-McDonald chaired poetry.
The award ceremony, one of the signature events of the Bocas Literary Festival, was held at the Academy for the Performing Arts, on Saturday, April 26, 2014 and featured an opening performance by students and faculty of the University of Trinidad and Tobago’s music programme.
Marina Salandy-Brown, founder and director of Bocas noted that festival recognized the value of prizes to the development of the literary landscape and so the festival had been working increase its range of prizes.
Indeed, along with the OCM Bocas Prize, the literary festival also offers the Hollick Arvon Caribbean Writers Prize (for emerging writers) the Burt Ward for Caribbean Literature (for young adult literature) as well as the Bocas Henry Swanzy Award (recognizing distinguished service to Caribbean letters).
The 2014 ceremony also paid tribute to Gabriel Garcia Marquez with writers reading from One Hundred Years of Solitude. Marquez died on April 17, 2014.
Previous Bocas prize winners are Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott (White Egrets, 2011), Earl Lovelace (It’s Just a Movie, 2012) and Monique Roffey (Archipelago, 2013).