|Photo by Rodell Warner|
DESPITE the carefully planned build-up, the Bocas Lit Fest still came upon me like a thief in the night. But how happy I am it did! For four days, all of my senses were overwhelmed by riches. The programme had breath, depth and variety and managed to not be dominated by any one single event or person. I was left listless at the end of it: wanting, remembering, thinking and looking forward to more festivals to come. Here is a list of some of my favourite events in random order.
|Audience at the Old Fire Station Building|
Music ‘From the Old Yard’
One of the most enjoyable highlights this literary festival (and there was an embarrassment of riches), was the premiere of a new piece of music, The Old Yard: Carnival Portraits from Trinidad, composed by Adam Walters, for strings, wind and percussion. The performance, at the UTT Academy for the Performing Arts, featured poems by Muhammad Muwakil and images by the great photographer Maria Nunes. This was a stunning event: the music balanced the meshing of separate themes with an artfully deployed dissonance. The tone was sombre, but not melancholic: the inverse of the exuberance of the music of Carnival. This was a risk which, in my view, worked. The energy and danger of Carnival met with its beauty; there was shade and subversion and understated joy. The final movement was a spectacular battle between two themes, with one subterranean theme gradually, and quite majestically, overwhelming the other. The presence of poetry and the filmic qualities of the slideshow created questions and unexpected relationships. Is poetry not music? Are images poems? Is film both?
Celebrating the 2012 winners
The day after the 2012 OCM Bocas Prize announcement ceremony (a report on which you can find here) the prize-winning writers all read from their work. Novelist Earl Lovelace read a section full of comedy and pathos from Is Just A Movie; Loretta Collins Klobah read from her multi-lingual The Twelve Foot Neon Woman and Godfrey Smith read from his biography George Price: A Life Revealed. The prize having been announced the night before, all of the readers were relaxed and gave fine readings. This was a treat.
|Kei Miller and Sharon Leach|
There were excellent readings from poets all over the region, writing in different styles, including: Kendel Hippolyte, Lasana Sekou, Vladimir Lucien, Fawzia Kane, Nicolette Bethel, Lelawatee Manoo-Rahming, Vahni Capildeo*, Kei Miller, Mervyn Morris, Fred D’Aguiar, Shara McCallum. The scope and variety made me wonder if poetry is beginning to have an even greater impact on the region’s sense of its literature. Or is it a constant stream through which the region finds expression?
Writers also gave remarkable readings including: Sharon Leach, Erna Brodbar, Karen Lord, Rahul Bhattacharya, Joseph O’Neill, Monique Roffey, Rivka Galchen. There were also readings from new writers: Stephen Narain; Sharon Millar (whose piece provoked a strong discussion on the sense of “place” within the work of Caribbean writers) and Rhoda Bharath. One issue both writers and poets discussed in one event was the question of influence and how dangerous the idea of mapping them out can become.
|Artist Christopher Cozier, editor Anne Walmsley, and Nicholas Laughlin, Bocas programme director|
Pictures from Paradise
Without a doubt Pictures from Paradise is an important book and will go some way to putting photography and the work of photographers/digital artists in its rightful place: the spotlight. The launch event was a buzz of activity.
One day after the book launch there was a reading of poets and writers at Martin’s, a pub/bar in Woodbrook. The energy on the night was palpable and the night was unforgettable because of the hilarious readings from several including Merle Hodge, Earl Lovelace, Colin Robinson and Mervyn Morris.
The Bookman and Midnight Robbers
The festival featured art from Wendy Nanan’s recent show at Medulla Art Gallery, ‘Books and Stupas’. The show was based on the figure of the Bookman and several pieces found themselves at strategic points all over NALIS. You can read a review here.
By coincidence, the programme featured a Midnight Robber showdown with the likes of Kurtis Gross, Fedon Honore, Johnny Stollmeyer, and Bill Trotman. The robber-talk came alongside some heated discussions throughout the festival, many of which revolved around set themes. One example was the discussion on “What is Caribbean art?: why we need art history.”
There was so much more, more than any list can enumerate. What can be said, though, is that the festival is a vital part of creating room for more dialogue about our region, its writing and its art.
*who read with me, but more on that here.