Guyana Prize for Literature

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Professor David Dabydeen receiving his award for Best Book of Fiction in both categories of the Guyana Prize from Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo on Sunday

Bascom, Subraj, Dabydeen in winners’ row

PROMINENT Guyanese playwright Harold Bascom copped two awards at the 2014 Guyana Prize for Literature and Caribbean Awards ceremony held at the Guyana Pegasus Hotel on Sunday night.Bascom, who was not present to receive his award, won the Best Book of Drama award for his book, “Desperate for Relevance”, ahead of Milton Bruce’s “New York New York of Pieces of Dreams” shortlisted in the Guyana Prize for Literature category, and Montserrat’s David Edgecombe’s “Lady Parham”, shortlisted in the Caribbean awards category.
Bascom, who resides overseas, is a four-time Guyana Prize winner in the best book of drama category.
In a brief acceptance speech read by Secretary to the Management Committee, Al Creighton, said, “To have won the Guyana Prize for Literature for the fourth time is very pleasing; to have won the Caribbean Award for the first time, however, is a very crowning moment for me, a Guyanese writer continuing to struggle for recognition.”
Bascom, who said he received inspiration from “the creative community of Guyana” and further afield said he will be returning to Guyana next year to be part of the country’s 50th anniversary celebrations.
Joining Bascom was Guyanese academic and renowned writer, Professor David Dabydeen who was once again awarded the Best book of Fiction for his book, “Johnsons Dictionary”.
Dabydeen is now a five-time winner of the Guyana Prize. Worthy of note is the youngest winner of the Guyana Prize, Subraj Singh; he won Best First Book of Fiction for his book, “Rebelle and other stories”. At 23, Singh is the second youngest writer to win the Guyana Prize. Ruel Johnson was the first to win the First Book of Fiction Prize.
Other winners include Stanley Niamatali, for Best First Book of Poetry, “The Hinterlands”; and Maggie Harris for Best Book of Poetry, “Sixty Years of Loving”.
Barbara Jenkins of Trinidad and Tobago won the Best Book of Fiction award for her book, “Sic Transit Wagon” under the Caribbean Awards, while Edward Baugh of Jamaica won the Best Book of Poetry for “Black Sand”. Chairman of the Guyana Prize, Professor Mark McWatt said the judging exercise was somewhat more difficult this year, given the last-minute arrangements to pull things together; late appointment of judges; and late provision of information on deadlines and other activities.
Nonetheless, some 71 persons submitted entries for the Guyana Prize and represented an “interesting mix” of creative works. There were four unpublished works, and 13 shortlisted titles for the Guyana Prize Category.
McWatt, a Guyanese and Caribbean Poet and fiction writer, was accompanied by Dr Louis Regis, Head of Department of Literary and Communication Studies at UWI, St. Augustine, Trinidad; Robert Leyshon, senior lecturer in English and Drama at Cave Hill Campus of the UWI; and Ameena Gafoor, cultural activism critic and editor as judges.
Meanwhile, members of the jury for the Guyana Prize for Literature’s Caribbean Award 2014 were Chairman, Dr Stewart Brown, Reader at the Centre of West African Studies, University of Birmingham where he served as Director, Lecturer and researcher; Rawle Gibbons, a leading dramatist in Trinidad and the Caribbean; and Professor Jane Bryce, a Professor of African Literature and Film at the Department of Language, Linguistics and Literature, UWI, Cave Hill, where she conducts a course in Creative Writing, specialising in the writing of fiction.
Also in attendance at the ceremony were Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo; Ministers of Education Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine and Nicolette Henry; Cultural Policy Advisor, Ruel Johnson; Dr. Ian Mc Donald; and former Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Dr. Frank Anthony.