Calabash festival plans in high gear

BY SADE GARDNER
Observer writer

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

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ORGANISERS for the biennial Calabash International Literary Festival say plans are in high gear for its 14th staging.

The festival — which is free and open to the public — is scheduled for Jakes in Treasure Beach, St Elizabeth, on June 1-3, 2018, under the theme: 'Calabash Lit Up'.

“Plans are shaping up very well. It's always hectic two weeks before any event as large as this, but we have a great team of volunteers and we've been doing this for a while,” Justine Henzell, Calabash co-founder, told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

This year's staging will see four female poets laureate: Jamaican Lorna Goodison; Canadian/Acadian Georgette LeBlanc; American Tracy K Smith; and Carol Ann Duffy from the United Kingdom reading from their work. Poet laureate is a national honour that recognises a distinguished poet for his or her significant contribution to the literary community.

Henzell was asked whether the several women's movements emerging worldwide influenced this year's line-up. She said it was mere coincidence.

“We have a very strong female presence this year and it just so happened that we got four female laureates reading on the same day. It wasn't influenced by the movements, but when I realised we had four female laureates I was very thrilled by that,” said Henzell.

The festival kick-starts with writers like Ishion Hutchinson, the current Joseph Brodsky Rome Prize winner; Indian author Thrity Umrigar; The Sopranos actor Michael Imperioli; and British poet Malika Booker. A live concert featuring Etana and Lila Ike is also on the books.

The festival will also continue its open mic segments on June 2 and 3. In addition to the poet laureates, day two will feature David Simon, creator the HBO series The Wire, and his wife Laura Lippman, who authors 23 books; Warsan Shire, who wrote poems featured on Beyoncé's visual album Lemonade; and MOBO award-winning hip hop artiste Akala, among others. The festival culminates with a tribute to ska trombonist and composer Don Drummond.

Henzell said it is not difficult to book the creatives for the festival, even though they are not paid to attend.

“Once they have time they come to Calabash. Plus, who wouldn't want to come to Jamaica for a weekend? We have developed a good reputation of taking care of our writers,” she said.

Henzell is encouraging the public to attend.

“It's one of the most stimulating ways to spend the weekend being by the beach and hearing different points of views from all over the world and interacting with writers,” Henzell added.

The Calabash International Literary Festival was founded in 2001 by novelist Colin Channer, poet Kwame Dawes and Henzell.

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