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Calabash 2016 Comes to 'Fruu-ish-aan' & Colin Channer's Providential Launched

Calabash 2016 serves up a buffet of award-winning writers

And so it came to fruu-ish-aan. This is the theme of the 2016  Calabash International Literary Festival, as it invites audiences to once again dine on a literary feast on the black sandy shores of Treasure Beach, June 3 - 5. The festival was launched Tuesday night (April 12, 2016) at Redbones the Blues Cafe in Kingston. 

The Calabash 2016 line-up serves up a feast of literary award winners, including two winners of Man Booker Prize Marlon James (A Brief History of Seven Killings, 2015) and  Eleanor Catton (The Luminaries, 2013). While James and Catton have been marked as the “taster’s choice kiwi and mango salad” of Saturday evening, they will be followed by the “Belly Full” platter of three award-winners:  Paul Beatty (Sell Out and White Boy Shuffle), Teju Cole and Geoff Dyer (But Beautiful and Otherwise Known as the Human Condition). Among them, these  of National Book Critics Circle and PEN Hemingway awards. 

Jason Hall, Deputy Director General of TourismOther celebrated and award winning writers to make the list includes PEN Hemmingway  awardee Chris Abani (The Secret History of Las Vegas, Graceland), Forward Prize winner Kei Miller (The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion and Augustown); Velma Pollard (Shame Trees Don’t Grow Here and Karl) winner of the Casa de las Americas prize; Chigozie Obiama (The Fisherman) winner of the FT/Oppenheimer Award for Fiction; Forward Prize Best First Book winner Tishani Doshi (Countries of the Body); Nina Revoyr (The Age of Dreaming and Southland) winner of a Los Angeles Times Best Book award; and Nikki Giovanni (Re: Creation, Love Poems and Chasing Utopia: A Hybrid) whose prize haul includes multiple NAACP awards an the Langston Hughes Award for Distinguished Contribution to Arts and Letters. 

Other writers also making the 2016 slate include poet and novelist Pam Mordecai, poet Vladimir Lucien and debut novelist Nicole Dennis-Benn. Calabash mainstay feature Reasonings (featuring Robert McCrum and Chris Abani) also return, as do musical elements Midnight Ravers and the closing day feature of the Calabash ensemble who will focus their attention on food in reggae. The open mic series also returns, this year introducing the Marlon James Open Mic Prize.Prof Carolyn Cooper announces the Marlon James Open Mic Prize

Tuesday night’s event pulled double duty as the launch for the festival as well as Providential, Colin Channer’s debut poetry collection, who though one of the founders of the festival, is notably not on this year’s line-up.

Dr. Sonjah Stanley Niaah introduces ProvidentialEven so, the book’s editor and festival co-founder Kwame Dawes had high praise for the collection, which is published by Akashic Books and Peepal Tree Press.

“This book is a beautiful collection of poems, a vulnerable collection of poems,” Dawes said as he went on explain that the collection chronicles Channer’s life as well as the nation. 

Despite Channer’s absence from Calabash 2016, it seemed particularly notable that his book’s Jamaican launch be associated with the festival.   

Sonjah Stanley Niaah gave the introductory address. Her presentation danced between the language of the academic and the lyricist as she delivered an eloquent celebration of the book. Rather than presenting a literary examination, Stanley Niaah couched the book in its relevance to the cultural history and present reality, highlighting that it is a poetry collection that belongs squarely in the Reggae canon. 

“Channer is a great rebel,” she said. “No follow this ‘son outlaw’.”Colin Channer reads from Providential

The audience received tastings from Providential first via Dahlia Harris and Alwyn Bully reading of ‘Fugue in Ten Movements’ and later from the poet himself. Channer’s reading included ‘Revolutionary to Rass’ (for Perry Henzell), ‘General Echo is Dead (For Mumma Nancy)’ and ‘Advantage’.

The poems in Providential cut across the personal, wind their way through Channer’s continued exploration of music and of course, interrogates policing in Jamaica going from its origins in the 1865 rebellion through to the issue of contemporary extra-judicial killings. 

Dawes, who hosted he line-up thanked the audience for their attendance of not just the festival but also the biennial staging of the festival, which this year will be recorded by the CPTC. The festival also received endorsements and high praise from the Ministry of Toursism and the United States Embassy in Jamaica.

“Thank you for allowing us to plan with confidence that people will show up.” Dawes said.