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Poets Mine Gold at JCDC Creative Writing Awards

M'Bala copped gold for two poems

M’Bala struck gold twice at the 2012 edition of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission’s Creative Writing Awards, recently held at the Knutsford Court Hotel, Kingston. The poetry segment boasted the strongest entries in this year’s competition, as M’Bala wasn’t the only poet to mine gold.  Four gold medals being awarded to poets, none for prose fiction and only one for play writing.

The twinkle of gold could not mask the glaring absence of novels from this year’s competition, and the inability of short story writers to impress the judges, attaining no higher that Bronze medals for their effort. This is either a damning statement on the state of writing in Jamaica, or on the state of the competition in the minds of aspiring writers.

Prof Edward BaughM’Bala was award gold for his poems ‘Bus.Blink’ and ‘ID’ both of which were entered in the adult poetry segment. Collette Robinson also struck gold in that segment with ‘Hallelujah 50’. Haneefah Adilah Seid won the sole gold among the Intermediate poetry with ‘Sixteen Different Shades’. No gold medals were awarded in the junior poetry category. Cleveland McLeish copped the only other gold medal for his sci-fi screenplay Chloe Cleopatra Taylor.

Interestingly, Professor Edward Baugh, the evening’s guest speaker spoke to the historical significance of the JCDC’s Creative Writing Competition. He described the competition as a place where writers of note have cut their teeth and proceeded to climb to great heights. He listed Trevor Rhone, Olive Senior, Hazel Campbell, Anthony McNeil and Diane Browne as among those writers who had passed through the competition. He therefore lauded the JCDC for sustaining the competition, even though it had never managed to “loom large” in the public consciousness.

Baugh’s presentation, was a combination of situating the competition in the Jamaican literary landscape as well as providing some advise to the current crop of entrants. He advised those who had not won, that this can be an important moment in their growth.

“Don’t just go off into disappointment,” he said. “Take this as a moment of learning.”

Baugh also highlighted that one of the major shortcomings of the competition is that it does not Actress and Actor Boy Judge Karen Harriott reads from 'Loodie Night'generally lead to publication, which is one of the writer’s ultimate goal. With the exception of Diana McCaulay whose most recent novel Huracan had passed through the competition before proceeding to publication, it seems that most of the writers for the past decade have not seen the Creative Writing Awards as an apt route. Baugh therefore encouraged the JCDC to explore avenues of publication for its winning entries.

The evening also included performances of a few award winning pieces. M’Bala performed his poems while actress and Actor Boy Awards judge Karen Harriott delivered the silver medal-winning narrative poem ‘Loodie Night’ by Valerie Ellis. Kerry-Ann ‘Kiki’ Thombs, Jerry Benzwick and Veronique Smith delivered an except of Chloe Cleopatra Taylor.

The awards, hosted by Fae Ellington, took place on November 7, 2012 and precedes an island-wide exhibition of the works which will move