According to Secretary of the Guyana Prize for Literature Al Creighton (‘Arrangements are in progress for the Guyana Prize 2010’ SN, May 1) “The Guyana Prize for Literature was created to promote good literature in the Caribbean in general and Guyana in particular, to encourage the growth of the literature and to celebrate and reward the best of it.”
This mandate is made difficult if, as Mr Ruel Johnson argues, the prize is biased towards overseas-based Guyanese, and according to Rev Gideon Cecil, it is open season for past judges and administrators who have the unfair advantage of perspective. Mr Creighton caps it off thus: “..to whom should the Guyana prize be given? Should it go to the best book whether or not the writer is local? Or should it go to a local writer whether or not his book is best?…The real issue is the creation of mechanisms for the development of local writers which the Guyana Prize needs to make renewed efforts to get funds to do. This will be attempted.”
Editor, I’m really big on making the most of what we do have while we wait on the means to do that which we cannot at this time. But in making such decisions, the original purpose of the Prize must always be remembered, especially the part that reads, “Guyana in particular…”
So here is my suggestion. How about we limit to three the number of times a person can win this prize in any category. Persons achieving this status become instant ‘literary royalty’ with a grand celebration upon their achievement. They get to serve any time they wish in its administration or judgment, but that’s it, they are no longer eligible for the Prize.
In addition, add a colour variant to the prize, so that if we exhaust all our gifted writers and find ourselves in the awkward position of having to award it to a mediocre book, the attached colour would save us the compromise of our literary standards. And a minus score says clearly that it is not the best for the institution, but you bet that score is still a big deal to its achiever. Plus, imagine the motivation to other writers (Hey, I have a shot at this!) and compare that to going up against a McDonald or a Dabydeen.
When the extra funds arrive, we’ll have an ‘open’ category where writers from all over the world can lock horns with our ‘literary royalty’; see how they fare then.
In the meantime, this is what we can do with the resources we already have. I dare say it would move the Guyana Prize closer to its mandate and make it a lot more meaningful to Guyanese, some of whom don’t even know it exists.