Guyana Prize for Literature has not helped emerging writers living and writing here

Dear Editor,

I wish to respond to Mr Al Creighton’s letter captioned: `All literary prizes use literary critics, academics and practicing writers as judges’  in the July 5th 2018 edition of Stabroek News and the other newspapers simultaneously. In my letter published in Guyana Chronicle and Kaieteur News pertaining to the Guyana Prize I dealt with some issues,  the first one was I quote below from my letter dated May 18, 2018.

“The deadline for submission to the Guyana Prize was March 31st, 2017, with the Awards Ceremony slated to be held in July, 2017. We are now into May 2018, about ten months past the awards ceremony due date and writers are still waiting to be informed by Mr Al Creighton, Secretary and Administrator of the Prize shortlist and Awards Ceremony date in blind hopes.”

May I now say we are in July 2018 one year now and Mr Al Creighton failed to address why this incompetent Prize for Literature is now a year after submission deadline and no award ceremony has been held and he has the temerity to compare this flawed prize to international prizes.

Mr Creighton is saying to the Guyana Literati and writers who submitted entries that it’s OK to be an entrant one year and a judge the next year winning the award all the time in a monotonous revolution.

“There are persons who have been winners of the Guyana Prize and who have also served as judges at different times – never at the same time. This is standard practice in the large international literary prizes, and we have made this correction before in the press”.

My concern was it’s the same Judges who were entrants who were winning the Prize all the time up to four or five times. No award in the world will ever allow such an act but the Guyana Prize for Literature. 

I believe regulations barring former judges from entering the Guyana Prize for Literature should be integrated into the award brochure. In some major literary awards abroad a winner who is a well-established literary scholar can be called to be a judge for the award but not be an entrant again and again as a judge then entrant winning it all the time. Some entrants who have won a prize at an international award will sometimes be asked to submit another entry only after five years have elapsed.

A former judge of any literary award knows the literary criteria by which an award is judged. Doesn’t the fact remain that they were fully aware of the literary criteria  the contest was being judged by, and this helped them to write books to suit the judges’ criteria and thus emerge as winners? Doesn’t the fact remain that they are possibly known to the other judges not give them an advantage over other entrants? Only a few Guyanese writers living and working in Guyana have won the prize. The awards are going to Guyanese who have been living over 30-40 years overseas.

Has the Guyana Prize for Literature helped emerging writers living and writing in Guyana? The answer is no. Writers living and writing in Guyana don’t have a publishing house here to help them get their works published. That is the reason the overseas-based Guyanese writers are winning the prize all the time because their books are properly edited and published by international publishers, and they have already won several international literary awards abroad. So how can our local writers compete with these fully established and recognized writers?

One of my major concerns is the quality of writing that has won the Guyana Prize, I have read all these books with a great deal of interest. Some of them like Essequibo, Martin Carter’s Selected Poems are great poetry that deserved the prize. Then I read some really vulgar and immoral works that are loaded with ‘cuss words,’ sexual overtures and hardcore material that’s mind-boggling to the real academic. My question is this: how can we teach such books as literature to our young students in schools and university?

Yours faithfully,

Rev. Gideon Cecil

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