Redbones hosts 14th Annual Writers Awards
In 2014, as has been the case so many times before, for the first 10 months of the year each last Wednesday has belonged to the spoken word at Redbones Blues Café. Then, on the last Wednesday in November, a selection of the writers over the season gathers at the New Kingston restaurant, nightspot and cultural hub for the Redbones Annual Writers Awards.
This year, the head-to-head meeting of verses takes place on Wednesday, November 26, starting at 8 p.m. The participating poets will each have 10 minutes to present a maximum of three pieces, which a panel of judges will assess based on originality, content and performance.
With a one-year gap in the event's staging, Evon Williams of Redbones noted that the awards have been on for 15 years. It is not only a matter of its longevity that Williams looks back on, but its pedigree. Williams noted that the first winner was multi-award winning author Dr Kei Miller, with Millicent Graham (author of The Damp in Things and The Way Home) the second winner. Also numbered among previous winners of the Redbones Writers Award are Ann-Margaret Lim (author of The Festival of Wild Orchid), A-dZiko Simba (All Over Again) Abebe Payne, Samuel Gordon, Osakwe, Anna Brown, Steppa and Ali Matalon.
"We have been very fortunate in that the individuals who have been winners have gone on to bigger and better things," Williams said.
So far, nine persons have confirmed their intention to join the list of Redbones Writers Award winners, with the possibility of two more joining the field. Maverick Webb, Dawn McGregor, Ticox, Richard Jones, Nadisha Thomas, Esquire, Inansi, Black Hustle and Denver Robertson have committed to putting their best verses forward on Wednesday.
Two awards are on offer, Poet of the Year and Poem of the Year.
"It is something I am very passionate about," Williams said about the monthly literature events which culminate in the annual awards. "It's amazing, the amount of creative talent that goes unsung, unheard of. I have always been involved in theatre and, by extension, the written and spoken word.
"I thoroughly enjoy it - personally, emotionally," Williams said. The last Wednesday is a major part of my month." It is a gathering which he said "has grown from strength to strength", so "we can expect 30 to 50 persons on a last Wednesday". This includes not only the participating poets but also those persons who sign up for open mic.
Noting other poetry events in the city, such as the Poetry Society of Jamaica's last Tuesday gatherings at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, Williams said, "Fortunately, Jamaica has a history of supporting the art, maybe not in great numbers."
In the section Eating Up Words at Redbones in the Redbones Blues Cafe 15 book, Professor Carolyn Cooper (who is a judge this year, along with Poet Laureate Professor Mervyn Morris) writes that at Redbones "Generous servings of literary light and livity, graciously presented in an elegant setting, have nurtured the spirit and watered the soul for a decade and half." And, she says, "It is the communal ritual of celebration that has made this iconic restaurant such a jazzy, bluesy, reggae-riffic place where words are eaten up with relish."
When this year's awards have been settled on Wednesday, there is a break for December and then, Williams said, "we start up again in January on the last Wednesday".