Jamaicans in the running for the Bocas Poetry Prize
Three Jamaican writers have been included on the long list of the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature sponsored by One Caribbean Network. Kei Miller has been listed for his collection of non-fiction essays ‘Things I Have Withheld’, while Jamaican-born Jason Allen-Paisant has been listed for his first poetry book ‘Thinking with Trees’ with the Jamaican Monica Minott for her book “Zion Roses”. ”
The judges of the award Belizean biographer Godfrey Smith of Belize; Rachel Manley, a Jamaican-Canadian writer; and Anita Sethi, a British Guyanese writer, described Miller’s collection of essays “Things I Have Withheld” as a “profound and moving excursion” into the “dark places where truth and reality reside”. The judges noted that Miller bravely explores unspoken truths as a black Jamaican gay man. The book combines memoirs with literary commentary to investigate discrimination in the silence that exists in conversations about race, sex, and gender. Jamaican-born Kei Miller won the Forward Prize for Poetry for his collection “The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion” in 2014, and in 2017 his novel “Augustown” won the Bocas Prize for Fiction, the Prix Les Africas, and the Carbet Prize for the Caribbean and the Whole World.
Jason Allen-Paisant, professor of Caribbean poetry and decolonial thought at the University of Leeds School of English, is from Coffee Grove in Manchester, Jamaica. He holds a PhD in Medieval and Modern Languages from Oxford University and speaks seven languages. He is also the director of the Institute for Colonial and Postcolonial Studies and a member of the editorial board of “Callaloo: Journal of African Diaspora Arts and Letters”.
Allen-Paisant’s “Thinking with Trees” examines the current condition of “marronage” – questions relating to how runaway slaves experienced the process of becoming maroons – for Caribbean writers, the judges said. They added that the collection explores nature as a “sacred place of contemplation” that offers healing from a past of marginalization. “Zion Roses” is the second book of poetry by Monica Minott, a poet who “understands voice and voice,” the judges said. She explores personal issues, political issues, memory and history to provide a “comprehensive view of Caribbean women-centered thought”, according to the judges.
Monica Minott is a chartered accountant and secretary as well as an award-winning poet. Minott has received two awards in annual literary competitions established by the Jamaican National Book Development Council and won first prize in the inaugural poetry competition held by Small Ax Publishing in 2009. Her poetry has been published in The Caribbean Writer, Small Ax Caribbean Journal, Cultural Voice Magazine, SX Salon, Jubilation, Coming Up Hot, The Squaw Valley Review and BIM magazine. Her poems have also been broadcast in Jamaica on Power 106. Her first collection of poems, “Kumina Queen”, was published by Peepal Tree Press.