The accomplished writer Earl Lovelace, who celebrates his 80th birthday this year, will be honoured next week in Tobago at the Bocas Lit Fest, which takes place from July 9 to July 11 at the Scarborough Library at Garden Side Street.The literary festival is welcoming all visitors, and will feature readings, spoken word events, storytelling, workshops for budding writers, films and some lively discussions. All events are free, except for the writers' workshops.
Bocas Lit Fest's director Marina Salandy-Brown thought it fitting to pay tribute to Earl Lovelace: "We want to mark his achievements in this special year."Earl Lovelace is a writer of novels, plays and short stories, and is celebrated for his fluid, original storytelling, memorably vivid characters, and his celebration of creole (island-born) language. His style can range from wild satire to nuanced character studies to extempore-styled, lyrical stream-of-consciousness flights of language, to direct political analysis. His writing easily navigates different registers of language.
Lovelace wrote the novels While Gods Are Falling (1965), The Schoolmaster (1968), The Dragon Can't Dance (1979), The Wine of Astonishment (1983), the Commonwealth Writers' Prize-winning Salt (1997), and Is Just a Movie (2011), as well as volumes of short fiction, plays and essays. This writer has won many awards, including a 1980 Guggenheim fellowship, a 1988 Chaconia Gold Medal from the T&T government, a 2002 honorary doctorate from UWI, and the 2012 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature.
Among his many themes, Lovelace's works often raise questions about the nature of manhood, the need for things to believe in, and the search for selfhood, meaning, and a sense of belonging in a fractured West Indian environment. West Indian lecturer and literary critic Kenneth Ramchand has noted that Lovelace's themes also include the need to address conditions that produce urban violence; the idea of community as family; the birth of desire and materialism; the creativity of ordinary people; and the alienation of a barren middle-class from the enduring poor (Ramchand, Caribbean Beat, 1999).
Born in the seaside village of Toco in 1935, Lovelace spent his childhood in Tobago and Port-of-Spain. His first job was, briefly, with the Trinidad Guardian newspaper as a proofreader (1953-54)–a time during which, as Ramchand wrote, "...he began studying the life that flows down like rivers from the hills: 'On these hills there, it is not only poverty.
It is disorder; it is crime; it is a kind of fear, and a way of thinking; it is as if there is a narrow meaning to life, as if life has no significance beyond the primary struggles for a bed to sleep in, something to quiet the intestines and moments of sexual gratification–indeed it is as if all the Gods have fallen and there is nothing to worship at, and man is left only bare bones and naked passions.'" (Caribbean Beat, 1999). But at the same time, Lovelace also saw in the city, people's irrepressible creativity and beauty, rising in expressions of Carnival, calypso and steelpan.
Lovelace later moved to the countryside, to Valencia as a forest ranger and then to Rio Claro as an agricultural officer.There he experienced the community spirit of village life and the beauty of life close to nature, surrounded by sounds of rivers and forests.He gained an intimate knowledge of rural Trinidad that later informed many aspects of his fiction. Lovelace began writing while in Valencia.
Lovelace studied at Howard University, Washington, DC in 1966-67, and in 1974 he received an MA in English from Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland. He lectured in literature and creative writing at UWI, St Augustine from 1977 to 1987, and has worked as a visiting novelist and writer in residence at several universities abroad.
"We in Tobago are delighted to be able to celebrate the 80th birthday of Earl Lovelace who has a long association with Tobago," said Deborah Moore Miggins, director of the Tobago Word Festival, which together with the Tobago Writers Guild, are coorganisers of the Tobago NGC Bocas Lit Fest.
The festival kicks off on July 9, from 5 to 9 pm with film screenings by and about Lovelace, including George and the Bicycle Pump (2000, 13 mins, produced by Asha Lovelace), Joebell and America (2004, 83 mins, produced by Asha Lovelace), and the documentary, A Writer In His Space (2014, 55 minutes, produced by Funso Aiyejina).
On Friday, July 10, members of the Tobago Writers Guild, also festival partners, will pay tribute with their readings of Lovelace's work, followed by a conversation featuring Earl Lovelace with James Armstrong. Visitors are welcome to bring along their books for author autographs.
Bocas Lit Fest organisers say another highlight of the festival is the appearance of winners of various 2015 literary awards, including Vladimir Lucien from St Lucia, who won the 2015 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature based on his debut collection Sounding Ground. Also participating will be Kevin Jared Hosein (Commonwealth Short Story Prize winner), and Danielle Boodoo Fortun� (Hollick Arvon Prize winner).
Saturday, July 11 brings a full programme of storytelling, creative writing workshops, open-mic, authors' readings, stimulating conversations and music at the Scarborough Library, all free. There will even be prizes for the best storytellers in the audience. And there will be a lively discussion–Where Has Calypso Gone?–featuring George Leacock (Radio Tambrin), Ainsley King (Tuco), writer Earl Lovelace, and calypsonian/activist Opuku Ware, at 5.15 pm on Saturday.
The festival concludes with a free Spoken Word Concert at 7 pm on Saturday, July 11, that includes Akile Wallace, winner of the 2015 First Citizens-sponsored National Poetry Slam prize; runner-up Kleon McPherson; Crystal Skeete, winner of the 2013 Slam; Michael Logie, winner of the 2015 Courts Bocas Speak Out Intercol; and a host of Tobago performance poets.
The National Gas Company of T&T is title sponsor of the Tobago NGC Bocas Lit Fest. The work of the Bocas Lit Fest is also supported by the Ministry of Planning and Sustainable Development, the Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism, UWI, and the Massy Foundation.
�2 More info: www.bocaslitfest.com