The Sky’s Wild Noise by Rupert Roopnaraine

by Shivanee Ramlochan, Paper Based Blogger

We’re rounding out our coverage of the exceptional 2013 OCM Bocas Prize shortlist with a tribute to the non-fiction winner: The Sky’s Wild Noise, a collection of essays from veteran politician and social commentator, Rupert Roopnaraine. This title is also the second on the shortlist to have been published by Peepal Tree Press – the other being poetry winner, Kendel Hippolyte’s Fault Lines.

A formidable chronicle of essays marking a lifetime of political service and social activism, Roopnaraine’s entries range from satirical treatments to eyewitness accounts, from critiques of visual arts to testimonies on the lives of great departed comrades and Guyanese luminaries. The Sky’s Wild Noise is a rare, meticulously plotted gift to Caribbean letters, revealing as much about the resilient, doughty composer of these ruminations as it does decades of sociopolitical history. The compendium provides a narrative that is dually relevant to Guyana’s society, as well as to the broader Caribbean spectrum.

Thus concludes our 2013 OCM Bocas Prize shortlist – but stay tuned! As the festival draws ever closer (less than a full week to go now!) we’ll be paying attention to other talented writers on the official festival programme by spotlighting their books. If a particular selection catches your fancy, and you’ll be in Trinidad from the 25th to the 28th of April, don’t hesitate to check the festival out in person! Remember, all the events (with the exception of workshops, for which there is a nominal fee) are free to attend, and who knows? The 2013 NGC Bocas Lit Fest might well be your favourite bookish event to grace your calendar this year.

Fault Lines by Kendel Hippolyte

by Shivanee Ramlochan, Paper Based Blogger

FaultLines

Here’s the second in our series of posts on the 2013 OCM Bocas Prize shortlist! Today, we’re peering into the covers of Kendel Hippolyte’s fifth collection, Fault Lines, winner of the category prize for poetry. Published by Peepal Tree Press in 2012, the work further establishes Hippolyte as “perhaps the outstanding Caribbean poet of his generation”, unstinting praise bestowed on him in the Heinemann Book of Caribbean Poetry.

Marion Bethel, the chair of this year’s Bocas poetry judging panel, describes Fault Lines as “a singular achievement”. Furthermore, the official response from the judging panel indicates the unanimously high praise that St. Lucian poet and dramatist’s work received: “[The collection] demonstrates Hippolyte’s excellent, all-round craftsmanship as a poet. His voice and cadence are unique and distinctive.”

I was no less enthralled — I’ve remarked to anyone who’ll listen that these poems are imbued with the rhythm and sound of the island chain. They speak to, and about, our multiple islanders’ selves with clarity and insight; they document the natural and man-made world, paying close attention to the interstices that are mappable between both. Every  shoreline and schoolchild becomes significant beneath the poet’s gaze; nothing is trivial or commonplace except in our hesitant recriminations of ourselves. Hippolyte writes the human condition both for grandness and for frailty, and the result is poetry that demands to be shared and read aloud, in resonant tones. Thankfully, those both unacquainted and familiar with Hippolyte’s work will have the chance to hear him read from Fault Lines at this year’s festival: a rare and glorious opportunity to hear the lyrical words coming even more vividly to life.

Archipelago by Monique Roffey

by Shivanee Ramlochan, Paper Based Blogger

Archipelago

Dear Paper Based readers, as the tremendously exciting third annual Bocas Lit Fest draws closer (we’re a mere two weeks away!) we’ll be focusing on several of the festival’s books here on our blog. This week, we turn our attention to the three category prize winners of the 2013 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, beginning with the victorious fiction selection: Archipelago by Monique Roffey. We’ve hosted a special reading of Monique reading from Archipelago at the shop, and can personally declare it to be a resounding success of a novel, one that sets itself apart on the merits of its ambitious, engaging voice. Archipelago reads as that rare fictive accomplishment: an engaging story, beautifully told.

The novel focuses on the (mis)adventures of unlikely hero Gavin Weald, his daughter Océan and their loyal hound, Suzy, as the three set sail on Gavin’s old boat Romany, to visit the Venezuelan Los Roques archipelagic chain of islands. In transporting his small familial tribe to new waters, Gavin flees the crippling loss he’s endured in Trinidad, charting a course to a destination whose emotional resonances he cannot yet quite fathom. An astounding portrait of the human psyche under pressure, the novel is replete with the stunning beauty of the natural world.

Succintly and grandly described by Kapka Kassabova of The Guardian as a “A big-hearted Moby Dick story for our times”, Archipelago wins over even the most sea-wary of travellers with its commitment to telling its own personal truths, and to telling them in a style that only serves to invite us deeper into the windswept, tempest-tossed world created in the writer’s capable hands.