Frank Collymore Literary Endowment: Travesty or Opportunity? Is it time for Board to change?

When it was announced that Kamau Brathwaite won the 16th edition of the Frank Collymore Literary Endowments, my first thought was if this is a programme to encourage upcoming talent for Barbadian Literature then why have you allowed Sir Garry Sobers to bat on the same field as amateurs?

Are you discouraging them – while some see it as an aspiration to do better, let’s bear in mind the reason the Olympics are very clear about who can play is to keep the field level for amateurs. When Simon Cowell’s musical X-Factor contest discovered a lady in her 50’s was a B-list entertainer in the disco era, she was removed forthwith for the same reason the Olympics kept the tournament – for amateurs only.

In Barbados Today, George Alleyne made a vivid analysis comparing the stinging reproach of Antonio”Boo” Rudder’s assessment of the 15th edition as opposed to the seeming molly-coddling for this year’s version {CLICK ON AUDIO FOR FULL STATEMENT};-

What happened between last year and this year? Nevertheless, Mr Rudder did see the importance of Web Advertising and even mentioned {CLICK ON AUDIO FOR FULL STATEMENT};-

ArtsEtc has claimed the victory is good for writers, but would people aspire for the Pulitzer Prize or the Nobel in Literature if they still faced the possibility of going toe to toe against Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott or TS Eliot? I doubt it!

The main winners and Keynote speaker with the Central Bank Governor, while I may not agree with this year's FCLE XVI, nevetheless the CBB does more for culture than the NCF which is mandated to to do the same!

The main winners and Keynote speaker with the Central Bank Governor, while I may not agree with this year’s FCLE XVI, nevetheless the CBB does more for culture than the NCF which is mandated to to do the same!

Since this is not even Kamau’s first victory but his second in less than a decade makes it more unfair in my view and laziness on the part of judges, perhaps these very judges need changing? Maybe from other islands? While some of the present stock are Caricom nationals, they have lived in Barbados long enough to assume our culture via osmosis. What if previous winners were made judges? There are enough 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners from over 15 years to play with… A mix of previous victors and the rest of Caricom?

Familiarity does breed contempt, when I heard the entries that placed and compared it with Kamau’s work which goes more by sight as to how he spells and places words, then I had to wonder why the 2nd and 3rd place winners were belittled since they seemed victorious in their own right as Kamau is an acquired taste?

For instance, Ronald Williams‘ extract from The Memoir seemed like a Bajan version of Philip Marlowe from the perpetrator’s perspective {CLICK ON AUDIO FOR FULL STATEMENT};-

While the true victor was the very young and powerful Mark Ramsay in a disturbing rendition of a car accident as part of a collection he submitted {CLICK ON AUDIO FOR FULL STATEMENT};-

It seems to me the only genuine place for an expert is the keynote address, which should be given to a person who has accomplished in the publishing world, and now their time is spent sharing their expertise as was down so eloquently by Pauline Melville where she took time to look at both Social and Magic realism in Literature, the videos are incuded here for readers to learn and hopefully emulate?

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  1. Ian, I don’t think I can find the words to express how strongly I am opposed to the views in this article. Any Barbadian writer who gets discouraged from entering the FCLE because one of the world’s foremost writers wins the first prize, should seriously re-evaluate WHY he/she is writing. It is exactly because of the presence of such universally celebrated talent that we have something to measure the standard of our own work against, and a stunning apex of excellence to WORK towards. I deliberately use the word WORK to highlight its importance and its seemless connectivity to PATIENCE. I find the complaint disguised as an article above as a form of the “fast food” or “Write quick or die trying” mentality that does not work in the world of literary arts. Few are aware, unlike you, that I am a former winner of the endowment and a former winner of the award named in Brathwaite’s honour. Still, fewer are aware that I have been writing seriously every single day for the past twenty years, that I typically spend 3 to 4 months constructing a poem, that I finish a collection about every five to six years and that I won my very first set of awards after 7 years of serious writing. Ian, you cannot validly evaluate a book or a collection of poems from a five minute reading of extracts. You should also note that literary competitions specifically in Barbados have a stunning reputation of attracting judges who are typically highly respected xperts in the fields of West Indian arts and letters. Which brings me to the apex of my point – WRITERS SHOULD ALWAYS KNOW WHY THEY WRITE AND WHY THEY ENTER COMPETITIONS AND IT SHOULD ALWAYS BE FOR THE RIGHT REASONS. I have never entered a literary competition for money. I recognized from very early that the judges sourced to judge literary competitions in Barbados are, in many instances, highly respected authorities in the field and as such, by entering my work, I am actually exposing my work to very high calibre critique and the benefits of such high calibre critique. That’s why I always request to see the remarks of the judges post-competition and I hope this will be seriously considered by the FCLE committee. THAT’S where the real benefit is.


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