Today on My Poetic Side we look at the poet who has spent the last 28 years in prison, the poet being given a Humanities Award and the longlist for the OCM Bocas Award.
I am still 22
This year marks the 28th year that the poet Ilhan Sami Çomak will have spent in prison. Last year on the occasion of his birthday he told his lawyer “Tell them that after 27 years in prison, I’m still 22.”
Sent to prison in 1994, the poet was tortured, and a confession forced out of him; he has always maintained that he is innocent. In 2007, his prosecution was ruled illegal by the European Court of Human Rights. However, following an appeal, the courts in Turkey confirmed a life sentence on him in 2016 and based it all of the evidence that they had obtained illegally in 1994.
During his years in prison, Ilhan has penned a total of eight books of poetry. He has been made an honorary member of PEN Norway and also awarded the Sennur Sezer award for poetry.
To mark the occasion of his birthday this year a gathering was held where readings of some of his work took place. There was also a song that was named for one of his poems.
There is currently a campaign ongoing to have the convictions against the poet overturned.
Mississippi Humanities Awards
The former poet laureate of the U.S Natasha Trethewey is to be amongst those who will be honoured this year with a Mississippi Humanities Award.
This year the ceremony will take place virtually on 26th March on the YouTube and Facebook pages of the council. Trethewey is to be awarded the Cora Norman Award which will be given as a recognition of her lengthy career in literature.
Trethewey has written five collections of poetry, including Native Guard which won a Pulitzer Prize. She often uses her writing to give a voice to those people who are more often hidden from traditional narrative. Her work is considered to be a testament to the weight of the history that surrounds the US.
The poet is one of five people who will be receiving the award.
OCM Bocas Award Longlist Dominated by Trinidad and Tobago
Of the nine writers who have reached the longlist for this year’s OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, five are originally from Trinidad and Tobago. The other four are from Jamaica, St Lucia, Dominica and Guyana.
This year marks the 11th year of the prize. There are three categories, fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Writers must be Caribbean by birth, or have had citizenship in the preceding year when they published their work in order to be considered.
The longlist contenders for the poetry prize are Mervyn Taylor for his sixth poetry collection “Country of Warm Snow”, Canisia Lubrin who is a St Lucian based in Canada for “The Dyzgraphxst” and Dominican born Celia Sorhaindo for “Guabancex” her first poetry collection.
The winner will be announced on 28th March. They will then be put forward with the winners of the other two categories for the overall prize which will be announced on 24th April.