Books

Canadian poet Canisia Lubrin wins overall 2021 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature for The Dyzgraphxst

The $10K US prize recognizes the best in Caribbean literature in fiction, nonfiction and poetry. The winner was announced on April 24.

The $10K US prize recognizes the best in Caribbean literature in fiction, nonfiction and poetry

Canisia Lubrin is the author of the poetry collection The Dyzgraphxist. (Anna Keenan)

Canadian poet and author Canisia Lubrin has been named the overall winner of the 2021 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature for her poetry collection The Dyzgraphxst. The winner was announced on April 24, 2021.

The Dyzgraphxst is set against the backdrop of contemporary capitalist fascism, nationalism and the climate disaster, where Jejune, the central figure, grapples with understanding their existence and identity. 

The prize recognizes the best in Caribbean literature in fiction, nonfiction and poetry.

A winner is chosen in each of the three genres, and these winners comprise the shortlist for the overall prize.

"For me as a poet, thinking of dysgraphia and its Greek etymology, which is 'difficult writing,' that, for me, crystallized this idea of selfhood and selfishness — and how the categories of humanity force people into a kind of legibility that has almost nothing to do with the fact that we're complex beings," Lubrin told Shelagh Rogers in a 2020 interview on The Next Chapter.

"It's about the legibility that reduces people to produce, to work, to be consumed in different forms and fashions."

Lubrin was born in St. Lucia and is now based in Whitby, Ont. She is also the author of the poetry collectionVoodoo Hypothesis. She recently received the 2021 Windham-Campbell Prize.

Rising Canadian literary star Canisia Lubrin talks about her new poetry collection The Dyzgraphxst. 11:09

Lubrin is also one of the judges, along with Canadian poets Louise Bernice Halfe and Steven Heighton, for the 2021 CBC Poetry Prize.

Guabancex by Domincian poet Celia Sorhaindo and Country of Warm Snow by Trinidadian American poet Mervyn Taylor were also shortlisted in the poetry category.

The poetry category was judged by Jamaican poet and performance artist Opal Palmer Adisa, Canadian writer Kaie Kellough and Trinidadian poet and artist Danielle Boodoo-Fortuné.

The Dyzgraphxst faced off against the fiction winner, These Ghosts Are Family by Jamaican American writer and librarian Maisy Card, and the nonfiction winner, The Undiscovered Country by Trinidadian poet and journalist Andre Bagoo.

Lubrin will receive $10,000 US ($12,475.00 Cdn). The two remaining finalists will each receive $3,000 US (3,729.00 Cdn).

The overall prize was judged by Trinidadian Scottish writer Vahni Capildeo.

Last year's overall winner was Richard Georges for his poetry collection Epiphaneia. Canadian writer Tessa McWatt was a finalist last year, having won the nonfiction category for her memoir Shame on Me.

The prize has been awarded annually since 2011.

The 2021 CBC Poetry Prize is now open! Submit your original, unpublished poem or collection of poems, up to 600 words, by May 31. Need a little coaching? Faith Fundal is joined by poet and jury member Canisia Lubrin. 6:08

Canadian poet and author Olive Senior won the overall prize in 2016 for her novel The Pain Tree. She was also a finalist in 2015, having won the nonfiction category for Dying to Better Themselves.

The other Canadian to be recognized by the prize is Dionne Brand, who won the fiction category in 2019 for her novel Theory.

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