Barbadians now stand a good chance of having the trials and tribulations experienced during this period of economic adjustment documented because the island’s writers were recently given a massive incentive to do so.
A common cry among artistes in Barbados, in other developing and in Third World countries, is that the absence of material rewards for their work reflects scant respect for such productions, but over the weekend Barbadian writers were given a sizeable enticement to let loose their creative imaginations on paper and tie those thoughts to the reality of challenging economic times.
“Barbados’ current economic circumstances provide opportunity for writers. … You must capture the events for posterity,” noted Central Bank Governor, Cleviston Haynes, at a forum of writers, avid readers and well-wishers last Saturday.
“You must tell our story, past, present, and future, of Barbados’ Economic Recovery and Transformation so that we never forget these efforts at rebuilding our economy and our children and their offspring know of the sacrifices so many of us made for our country,” he implored the writers assembled in the Bank’s Courtney Blackman Grand Salle, and those across the island.
Haynes’ remarks came at the 21st Frank Collymore Literary Endowment Awards, which the Bank initiated and has funded throughout the years.
In a gesture of putting money where his mouth is Haynes announced the Bank’s addition of $1 million to the endowment funds it has put forward for over two decades.
He said that these additional funds would be invested as soon as market conditions allowed.
“The income from the investment will supplement annual budgeted allocation, enabling the [FCLE] Committee to provide greater support and opportunities for writers.”
Haynes said it was envisaged that the money flowing from the investment “will support FCLE’s desire to offer scholarships in creative writing at the University of the West Indies and sponsor a literary award in NIFCA for writers of school age”.
Master of ceremonies for the evening, Dana Gilkes, informed the gathering that submissions for FCLE 2018 awards fell short as none was good enough to earn the first prize in this premier literary awards scheme for Barbados.
“It is my onerous task to inform you that due to the uneven handling of some of the pieces even in the winning collection, that there is no first prize winner this year. Nor has anyone won the Prime Minister’s Award,” she said.
Second prize that comes with $7,500 went to UWI Professor Emeritus Hazel Simmons-McDonald for A Collection of Short Stories.
Poet Sonia Williams won third prize, complemented by $5000, for her poetry collection On Livity.
FCLE committee chairperson, Barbados Poet Laureate Esther Phillips, stated that Simmons-McDonald’s collection “deals with alienation, estrangement, loss and even abandonment and betrayal, of coming too late to a recognition of true goals and desires and the pain of changing course”.
“But there is too the strength to let go and move on. The writing is layered rather than dramatic, and events unfold more often than they explode. Impact is quietly persuasive.
“This collection of short stories demonstrates a commendable understanding of the requirements of a craft to which the writer has committed herself.”
According to Phillips the work of Williams that earned her the third prize demonstrated “an imagination that is sometimes playful, often revealing moments that are poignant but fleeting”.
“What is evident though is not only a poet’s eye but an ear that pays careful heed to the voices of the natural and the spirit world.
“What results is a particular choice of image and metaphor, a certainty of phrasing that leaves the reader in no doubt as the authenticity of the experience, and the writer’s grasp of techniques that enhance writing.”