The 2023 Bocas Henry Swanzy Award

The 2023 recipient of the Bocas Henry Swanzy Award is Professor Emerita Sandra Pouchet Paquet, a Trinidad-born, US-based Caribbeanist scholar who spent much of her career at the University of Miami — in recognition of her pioneering contributions to the fields of academia, literature, and cultural studies.

One of the first Caribbeanist scholars at a US university, Pouchet Paquet entered a field that was in flux, and committed herself to its transformation. In the 1990s, in addition to educating and mentoring students at the undergraduate and graduate levels, Pouchet Paquet directed the University of Miami’s Caribbean Writers Summer Institute, an initiative that shaped the careers of a generation of authors who soon became leading figures in Caribbean literature.

With her founding in 2003 of Anthurium: A Caribbean Studies Journal, Pouchet Paquet established an early born-digital publication that would swiftly be regarded as a rich repository for peer-reviewed scholarship of both academic and creative foundations.

Born in Trinidad, Sandra Pouchet Paquet pursued an undergraduate degree at Manhattanville College, New York (1967), followed by an MA and PhD in English at the University of Connecticut (1971, 1976). After a transformational three-year period of teaching at the University of the West Indies, Mona (1974–77), Pouchet Paquet took on Assistant Professorships at the Universities of Hartford and Pennsylvania before her developmental journey with the University of Miami began. Her advocacy for the study, inclusion and interweaving of Caribbean scholarship into the wider academic community characterised her pedagogy at its earliest levels, and strengthened upon each appointment.

Powerful and generative connections with Derek Walcott and George Lamming would keenly impact Pouchet Paquet’s career and its directions. Crediting Lamming with being her first true educator in Caribbean literature, Pouchet Paquet’s own critical writings of Lamming’s work have been prolific, sustained, and vigorous: her book The Novels of George Lamming (Heinemann, 1980) remains a seminal text. Her other full-length publications are Caribbean Autobiography: Cultural Identity and Self-Representation (University of Wisconsin Press, 2007) and Music, Memory, Resistance: Calypso and the Caribbean Literary Imagination (Ian Randle Publishers, 2007), co-edited with Patricia Saunders and Stephen Stuempfle. The range of interests across her numerous journal publications is testament to a keenly engaged critical consciousness committed to exploring Caribbean feminisms, Afro-Caribbean studies, and studies of the diaspora, among numerous areas of interest.

About the Award

In 2013, the Bocas Lit Fest inaugurated a new annual lifetime achievement award to recognise service to Caribbean literature by editors, publishers, critics, broadcasters, and others.

The Bocas Henry Swanzy Award for Distinguished Service to Caribbean Letters is named for the late BBC World Service radio producer (1915–2004) who took the BBC World Service programme Caribbean Voices, started by Jamaican Una Marson, to new heights, making it a landmark platform for Caribbean writing in the 1940s and 50s.  Swanzy commissioned, edited and promoted West Indian writers living at home and broadcast their fiction and poems across the region, helping to advance their writing careers and create the generation of successful West Indian writers of the last century.

The Bocas Lit Fest founded the award to honour and celebrate the contributions of the editors, broadcasters, publishers, critics, and others who have shaped the evolution of Caribbean literature behind the scenes. Recipients are chosen by the Bocas Lit Fest.

In previous years, the Award was presented to publishers John La Rose and Sarah White of New Beacon Books, in 2013; literary critics Kenneth Ramchand and Gordon Rohlehr, in 2014; editor and broadcaster Margaret Busby in 2015; publisher Jeremy Poynting of Peepal Tree Press in 2016; bookseller Joan Dayal of Paper Based Bookshop, in 2017; editor and scholar Anne Walmsley in 2018; publisher Ian Randle in 2019;  scholar and editor Kamau Brathwaite in 2020; and literary critics Edward Baugh and Mervyn Morris in 2021.

All Awardees

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