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Derek Walcott wins OCM Bocas Prize

Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott takes 2011 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature.

White Egrets, his collection of poetry that has already won the TS Eliot Prize and was judged the winner of the OCM Bocas Prize poetry category, was chosen for the US$10,000 award last night, seeing off competition from the fiction and non-fiction winners.

The judges in their citation commented upon the "seemingly effortless flow of the language and imagery despite the poet's stated premonitions of the loss of poetic power and inspiration…. Walcott is still writing great poetry, lovely cadences, beautiful images".

They considered the book-length poem that is divided into separate poems and is an exploration of bereavement and grief in one's advanced years to be, "a book that tells of a period of life more usually talked at and talked about than heard from or listened to, which makes it a very important work".

White Egrets is Walcott's 14th book of poems. He has also published eight collections of plays and a book of essays. Extracts of the winning collection were featured in two parts in the Express in April.

The poet, who is at work in Europe on a new theatre production, was not present at the award ceremony and his daughter Mrs Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw, who is also a writer, accepted the OCM Bocas Prize cheque and trophy on his behalf. Tiphanie Yanique, whose debut novel, How To Escape From a Leper Colony, won the Fiction category, is visiting Trinidad for the occasion but Edwidge Danticat, winner of the Non-Fiction category for Create Dangerously: the immigrant artist at work was unable to attend.

The ceremony last night in the Old Fire Station included many of this country's and the region's most accomplished writers. It was one of the highlights of the new annual Bocas Lit Fest that started on Thursday at the National Library in Port of Spain. Readings from the winning books take place today at 4 pm, followed by poetry and music performed by the Freetown Collective and a jazz session by Mike Germain and Destino at 5pm, which bring the four-day Festival to an end.

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