Jamaica’s poet laureate Lorna Goodison, is seeking to get more young people actively involved in poetry writing with a new initiative.
Partnering with the Helen Zell’s Writer’s Program at the University of Michigan (where she taught for a number of years), Goodison is hoping to create an opportunity for young people who want to take poetry seriously to improve on their writing skills.
Goodison is the first female to be named poet laureate. She was invested in May of this year and will serve a three-year term ending in 2020. Upon her appointment Goodison pledged to pay special attention to the country’s youth. Explaining that as a young adult, she was blessed to have had the opportunity to interact with persons who allowed her passion for poetry to flourish, Goodison told The Sunday Gleaner that sometimes a lack of opportunity to explore their interests, may be mistaken among young people as a lack of interest.
“This is a competition for persons who are really serious about poetry and may be thinking of the writing of poetry full time. When I started writing poetry seriously, I was very fortunate in that I knew Dereck Walcott through a family friend and I got a lot of help from him,” she said.
“I was very fortunate in that regard and I don’t think everybody has that kind of opportunity, so I’m just trying to open up those doors for somebody who really wants to be a serious poet. I used to write my poetry secretly because I had no outlet for it. What a competition like this does, is that it gives us an opportunity to see if people are interested or not. I think what this initiative will do is bring out some people who might be interested (in poetry) that nobody had a way of knowing they were interested.”
This is the debut for the initiative, but Goodison is hoping to make it into an annual competition or at the very least, she wants to keep it running during her tenure as poet laureate.
US$1,000 CASH PRIZE
The National Library of Jamaica is also a part of the project and will play an integral role in establishing the shortlist of competitors based on submissions. The winner of the Poet Laureate of Jamaica and Helen Zell Young Writer’s Prize for Poetry, will receive US$1,000 in prize money, as well as an invitation to participate in an award ceremony to be held in Kingston on March 21, 2018 – World Poetry Day in Jamaica. The cash prize is funded by the Helen Zell Writer’s Program at the University of Michigan. Shortlisted applicants in the competition will have their work appraised by staff and students of the Master of Fine Arts writing program at the University of Michigan.
The prize is open to Jamaican nationals between the ages of 17-25 who are interested in pursuing a career in the writing of poetry. The submitted poems must be the original work of the applicant. Poems may be written on any subject of the applicant’s choosing and should not have been previously published.
Each applicant is required to submit a portfolio of three to six original poems (typed on plain paper), a completed application form (can be accessed via the National Library of Jamaica’s website) and a copy of a government-issued photo identification (e.g. passport, driver’s license). The deadline for submission is December 15, 2017. The winner of the competition will be announced in February 2018.