Arts & Culture

Poetry competition heats up

Sunday, January 20, 2019

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The process to arrive at the winners of Poet Laureate of Jamaica 2019 poetry prizes is currently under way.

According to the National Library of Jamaica, which is organising the competition on behalf of the Poet Laureate, the entries which were received up to the deadline of January 4, have been shortlisted and the final set of of works are being prepared for submission to the final panel of adjudicators overseas. Over US$4000 in prizes are on offer for this year's winners.

This year marks the second cycle of the competition with the addition of three new prizes catering to the length and breadth Jamaica's poetic landscape, funded by Lorna Goodison, Poet Laureate of Jamaica.

The Poet Laureate of Jamaica Young Writer's Prize for Poetry returns. The winner of the prize will receive US$1,000. This prize for poetry affords shortlisted applicants the opportunity to have their work appraised by staff and students of the prestigious and highly competitive Master of Fine Arts writing programme at the University of Michigan. The prize is open to Jamaican nationals between the ages of 17-25 who are interested in pursuing a career in the writing poetry.

The second competition is The Edward Baugh Prize for Poetry. This is open to an emerging poet under the age of 35 residing in the eastern end of the island (Kingston, St Andrew, St Thomas and Portland). The prize will also include a cash award of US$1000. The prize is administered in partnership with the University of Virginia Center for Poetry and Poetics. The competition has been established in honour of Professor Edward Baugh, world renowned literary scholar of contemporary Caribbean poetry whose groundbreaking work has influenced several generations of the region's writers and poets.

The third segment is The Michael Cooke Award. This is open to a male poet residing in the western end of the island (Hanover, Westmoreland, St Elizabeth, St James, and Trelawny). The winner will receive US$1000. This prize was established in honour of the late Professor Michael G Cooke, a Jamaican who, in 1962, became the first black person to hold tenure as a professor of English at Yale University, and was a notable scholar across international literary traditions.

The Louise Bennett Award named in honour of the renowned Jamaican folklorist and cultural icon more popularly known as Miss Lou. This section of the competition will also attract a US$1000-prize. It is open to a Jamaican poet of any age residing in the central parishes of the island (Clarendon, St Ann, St Mary, Manchester, and St Catherine).

Last year, the inaugural year of the competition, the top prize was won by two Jamaicans Jovante Anderson and Lauren Delapenha who copped the top award of the Poet Laureate of Jamaica Young Writer's Prize for Poetry.

This year's winners will be declared as part of the 2019 World Poetry Day, Jamaica celebrations on March 21.

— Richard Johnson

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