“I think it is a matter of bravery both in terms of technique and in terms of the things you have to say,” Lucien says. “And it is a matter of being willing to put in the work that is necessary for that to happen and being very aware of tradition and respecting it.”
Lucien is a St Lucian poet. His first collection of poetry, Sounding Ground (2014), was earlier this month awarded the OCM Bocas Prize. His work has appeared in BIM, Caribbean Review of Books, Wasafiri, Small Axe, and several other journals. In 2013, he was awarded the Small Axe Literary Prize for poetry. Writer Shivanne Ramlochan has described Lucien’s debut – which was launched at last year’s Bocas Lit Fest – as, “a careful succession of exultances.”
In an interview at the Old Fire Station, Hart Street, Port-of-Spain, moments after he was announced as the winner of the Bocas Prize last Saturday, Lucien expressed elation saying,
“It feels really good. I think there are a lot of things that are symbolic about it. I am the third St Lucian poet to win it and it’s really good that it happened when Derek Walcott – the first person to win this prize – was honoured by the festival. In 2013 the poetry prize was won by Kendel Hippolyte and now we’re in 2015.” Lucien pays tribute to the other nominees for the prize.
“Olive Senior is one of the doyennes of Caribbean literature and Marlon James is a fantastic novelist,” he says. “This feels really good and the validation, especially coming from a Caribbean prize, feels especially tremendous.”
Though Lucien is St Lucian he has ties to Trinidad (for example, he studied here and his wife is Trinidadian). He says he turned to poetry after encountering the work of key regional voices such as Kei Miller and Tanya Shirley, accomplished Jamaican poets.
“I think poetry is definitely in a fantastic place,” Lucien says. “Poets are experimenting and one of the things I need to say is that in terms of the influence and the spirit I was channelling for Sounding Ground, it starts from the stalwarts of Caribbean poetry and extends to the very new voices like Kei Miller and Tanya Shirley. These are people I started reading while at university and became inspired by what they were doing and decided I wanted to do something like that.”
What’s next for Lucien? In a follow-up Facebook message, he states, “I’m in the very early phases of writing poems (hopefully a collection) on a major event that took place in St Lucia some time ago which is leading me into far away histories, and stretched and diffused sins. It seems like an exciting project. Other than that, I’ve been invited to a number of festivals, so I’m looking forward to those.”