The Caribbean Magazine Plus Poetry Contest award ceremony was held on Oct. 8 on Facebook and was a huge success thanks to its parent company Arawak Media.
This year’s crop of finalists was more experienced in their writing, which made the competition tougher than it was in its inaugural year. This year was also special because it marks the first year a non-English speaker won or even placed in any contest Arawak Media has hosted.
First-place winner, Raúl Ignacio José Arana Irías, from Nicaragua, said about his entry “Bluefields.” “Bluefields was a city I fell in love with. I arrived at the city at the age of 15 a place very different from what I was used to. The tropical atmosphere really impressed me and the environment and the people. To hear the people speaking in so many different languages from English to Creole to even Chinese. There were a lot of Chinese walking these streets in the market and hearing these crowds of people just speaking. It was important at this age to be able to just mix with people and new people who you did not know before. A whole new set of people.”
Second place winner, Gabrielle Hulse, from Belize with her entry, “The Ship of Grief,” said: “I wouldn’t by any means call myself a poet. This is actually one of the most formal pieces of poetry I’ve ever written. But I’ve always been a lover. I’ve always appreciated poetry and literature and the arts. It’s always something I’ve admired from afar. “But I think what really drove me to write the poem that I wrote and submitted for this contest was my dad passed away this past April, and I guess there were just so many feelings that I couldn’t fully express in the normal ways that we usually express our feelings.
“So, when I saw that there was an opportunity to just sit down and write, I think all of the feelings that I had bottled up, I just put onto paper and that’s what created this poem in the first place. So, by no means am I a poet but definitely a feeler or an appreciator of poetry, and I think that’s really all it takes.”
This year’s poetry contest was also special because we decided to award two third-place finishers. The first was Dr, Elizabeth Best from Barbados, with her entry “Where I am from.” Dr. Best said: “There’s so much craziness going on and I write to explore the environment inside and the environment outside and find that path that can make me keep smiling all day, despite everything.”
The Kentucky, U.S.-based educator also said: “I also write to encourage my students to write, and recently we were working on a piece from George Ella Lyon. She has a poem ‘Where I’m from,’ where she explored her immediate environment and I thought I’d go beyond that and experiment with all the sayings I heard my grandmother spouting when I was growing up because that’s really where I’m from; all the wisdom that she spouted whenever you were doing something wrong. So, I experimented with that and I came up with that poem that’s based on all the things that I’ve heard as a child.”
Rosario Auguste, from St Lucia, the second third-place finisher, also said: “I write to express my emotions.”
Juanita Coleman-Merritt, the lead evaluator for this year’s contest said, “We had such a variety and wide selection of poetry to choose and it was difficult to make choices. It always is when it comes to art because a lot of it is subjective in a way. But we really did our best to look at the craft as much as we could to look at the feeling, to look at the voice of the poet, and to look at the imagery: What did we feel, what did we see and what did we hear?”
All the entries from this year’s finalists can be read on Caribbean Magazine Plus. There were over 40 entries, and the best ones will be published in Vole II of our “Signs of the Sun,” poetry series from Caribbean Magazine Plus’s Poetry Contests.
For more information on this and upcoming events and contests, contact: