Jamaica’s rich cultural heritage will again be on display through a series of book festivals and creative writing programs this year. Travelers seeking a respite from the flurry of their day to day lives now have the opportunity to explore a destination that has birthed some of the world’s preeminent scholars of English literature and hear from its most enduring creative voices at Jamaica’s internationally renowned literary events.
One such voice is that of Jamaican novelist Marlon James, winner of the prestigious 2015 Man Booker Prize for Fiction for his novel A Brief History of Seven Killings, a fictional retelling of the 1976 attempted murder of Bob Marley. With his win came international recognition, great fanfare and a literary spotlight, both on himself and on Jamaica.
While the destination is well known worldwide as a cultural hub for cuisine, sport and reggae, few people recognize Jamaica’s immense contributions to world literature. In addition to James, Jamaica has produced a number of novelists such as Roger Mais and Andrew Salkey as well as poets including Kei Miller and Lorna Goodison. Jamaican-American poet Claude McKay, a seminal figure in the Harlem Renaissance, is widely known for his tremendous influence on Afro-Caribbean literature through poems such as those in his 1912 book Songs of Jamaica. More recently, Kingston native Colin Channer, once referred to as “Bob Marley with a pen,” has developed a reputation for his touching fables which evoke Jamaican life and society.
“Jamaica’s artistic acumen has produced incredible music and stunning visual arts; and literature is sure to be another genre that allows the world to learn even more about the creative talent that permeates this island,” said Paul Pennicook, Jamaica’s Director of Tourism. “Indeed, Jamaica provides inspiration not only to its own residents, but to visitors as well who journey to hear her literary luminaries. James Bond creator Ian Fleming penned all of the series’ novels at his Goldeneye estate in Oracabessa. The island’s scenic, natural beauty and distinct culture is itself an enigmatic muse of sorts, evoking creative thought and engendering storytellers.”
Cognizant of its literati appeal, Jamaica holds a series of literary events each year where residents and visitors share the written word, a sampling of which includes:
Calabash Literary Festival
Friday, June 3 to Sunday, June 5, 2016
A three-day festival of readings and music with other forms of storytelling folded into the mix, Calabash is earthy, inspirational, daring and diverse. After 12 stagings, it has established itself as the original and biggest of the Caribbean literary festivals. Now staged on a biennial basis on even years, the event features renowned authors and musicians from across the world who read and entertain. http://www.calabashfestival.org/2016/index.html
Poetry Society of Jamaica Fellowships
Running from January to November each year, the Poetry Society of Jamaica’s monthly fellowships function primarily as live workshops that encourage the sharing of poems and the engagement in frank, constructive discussions with the aim of improving on the writing output. Since 1989 the gatherings have been the meeting place for writers, a community space that unearths new talent while celebrating the work of elders of the craft.
Jamaica Creative Writing Competition
Deadline: April 30, 2016
The Jamaica Creative Writing Competition and Exhibition, organized by the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission since 1963, has long been recognized by the island’s literary elite as one of the best channels for recognizing young writers, promoting and showcasing them and their original works. Writers are recognized each year and compete for the titles ‘Special Writer’, ‘Outstanding Writer’ and the most prestigious ‘Best Overall Writer’. Special awardees receive sponsored cash prizes and other incentives.
For more information on how to plan a literary vacation in the Home of All Right, go to www.visitjamaica.com.