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Jason Allen-Paisant Longlisted for BOCAS Prize

Monday, 28 Feb 2022

No Text We're thrilled that Jason Allen-Paisant has been longlisted for the 2022 OCM Bocas Prize for his collection Thinking with Trees! Recognised as the most prestigious award dedicated to Caribbean writing, the OCM Bocas Prize is now in its twelfth year. The Prize recognises books in three genre categories — poetry, fiction, and literary non-fiction — published by authors of Caribbean birth or citizenship in the preceding year. Of the nine books longlisted for the 2022 Prize, seven are by women, and five are by authors of debut books.

In the poetry category, the longlist brings together three books of diverse style, all concerned with how the past shapes the present.

Thinking with Trees, the debut book by Jamaica-born, UK-based Jason Allen-Paisant, “invites us to think about a perpetual condition of ‘marronage’ for the Caribbean writer,” write the judges. The collection, they add, “explores nature as a sacred palace for recollection in another tranquillity, far from the one proposed by Wordsworth, a recollection that makes memory present, that heals from the past of marginalisation.”

What Noise Against the Cane, the first full-length book by T&T-born, US-based Desiree C. Bailey, “reimagines archival history into a living, breathing memento of tragic witnessing.” In these poems, “violence acts on the practice of writing … The book itself is inhabited by various levels of language that intertwine to make present the multiple races and histories that inform each piece.”

Completing the poetry category is Zion Roses, the second book of poems by Jamaican Monica Minott. “This is a poet that understands voice and voicing,” write the judges. “Some of the more startling poems are dramatic monologues.” Here, “the personal and the political, memory and history give an all-encompassing view of Caribbean women-centred thought.”

See the full longlist here.

In the next stage of judging for the OCM Bocas Prize, the judges will announce the winners in the three genre categories on 27 March. These will go on to compete for the overall Prize of US$10,000, to be announced on Saturday 30 April, during the twelfth annual NGC Bocas Lit Fest. Each category winner will receive US$3,000.

The 2022 judging panels for the OCM Bocas Prize bring together Caribbean and international writers, critics, and literary organisers. Mayra Santos-Febres, Puerto Rican poet, academic, and executive director of Puerto Rico’s Festival de la Palabra, chairs the poetry panel, joined by Chloe Garner, artistic director of the UK’s Ledbury Poetry Festival, and Jamaican poet and critic Ishion Hutchinson. British academic and broadcaster Shahidha Bari chairs the fiction panel, joined by T&T-born, US-based writer Anton Nimblett and Canada-based scholar Christina Sharpe. And on the non-fiction panel, chair Godfrey Smith — Belizean jurist, biographer, and himself a former winner of the OCM Bocas Prize for Non-Fiction — is joined by Canada-based Jamaican writer Rachel Manley and Guyanese-British writer Anita Sethi.

The overall chair of the 2022 cross-genre judging panel is Trinidadian-British writer Roger Robinson, winner of the 2019 T.S. Eliot Prize.

A huge congratulations to Jason, and to all the other authors on the longlist - find out more here.

No Text
Jason Allen-Paisant grew up in a village in central Jamaica. 'Trees were all around,' he writes, 'we often went to the yam ground, my grandmother's cultivation plot. When I think of my childhood, I see myself entering a deep woodland with cedars and logwood all around. [...] The muscular guango trees were like beings among whom we lived.'

Now he lives in Leeds, near a forest where he goes walking. 'Here, trees represent an alternative space, a refuge from an ultra-consumerist culture...' And even as they help him recover his connections with nature, these poems are inevitably political.

As Malika Booker writes, 'Allen-Paisant's poetic ruminations deceptively radicalise Wordsworth's pastoral scenic daffodils. The collection racializes contemporary ecological poetics and its power lies in Allen-Paisant's subtle destabilization of the ordinary dog walker's right to space, territory, property and leisure by positioning the colonised Black male body's complicated and unsafe reality in these spaces.'

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