Lady Laureates

The 2018 staging of the biennial Calabash International Literary Festival will feature four women who are Poets Laureate of their countries: Jamaica’s own Lorna Goodison, Dame Carol Ann Duffy from the UK, Acadian/Canadian Georgette LeBlanc, and Tracy K Smith from the USA, who was recently confirmed for her second term. On Saturday June 2, 2018, during a session titled “Lady Laureates” the four poets will read from their work. “We call this a “must see” event at this year’s Calabash,” Kwame Dawes, co-founder & artistic director, said about this historical reading.

Goodison’s work—rich in Jamaican imagery and humour and full of historical and social commentary—features 13 poetry collections including I Am Becoming My Mother (1986), which won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize for the Americas. She is no stranger to the Calabash stage, having captivated the audience in 2008 with her joyful family memoir, From Harvey River, which won the British Columbia National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction and was a finalist for both the Trillium Book Award and the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction.

Lorna Goodison

Duffy was appointed the UK’s Poet Laureate in 2009, becoming the first woman, first Scot and first openly LGBT person to be so honoured. Her writing explores with humour and intellectual dexterity, everyday experiences even as she engages with boldness and insight contemporary events in Britain.  Duffy is recognized as a poet writing out of a deeply feminist sensibility. She has received many awards, including the Signal Prize for Children’s Verse, and the Whitbread, Forward and T. S. Eliot Prizes. Her most recent poetry collection, The Bees, won the Costa Poetry Award in 2011.

Carol Ann Duffy

LeBlanc’s style of narrative poetry is widely recognized for highlighting the richness of written and spoken Acadian French. The Quebec native’s published works include Alma (2007), Amédé (2010), Prudent (2013)—a finalist for the 2014 Governor General’s Literary Award, and Le Grand Feu (2016), published by Éditions Perce-Neige, where she edits the poetry collection, Acadie tropicale. Ms. LeBlanc’s appearance is being facilitated by the Canadian High Commission.

Georgette LeBlanc

Smith was appointed for a second term as the United States Poet Laureate in March this year. She is the author of four collections of poetry: The Body’s Question (2003), which won the Cave Canem prize for the best first book by an African-American poet; Duende (2007), winner of the James Laughlin Award and the Essence Literary Award; Life on Mars (2011), winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry; and Wade in the Water, which was published in April. Her memoir, Ordinary Light (2015), was a finalist for the National Book Award in nonfiction. The US Embassy Jamaica is proud to support Ms Smith’s attendance at Calabash. She follows former US Poet Laureates such as Robert Pinsky, Natasha Trethewey and Billy Collins who have also attended the festival in Treasure Beach.

Tracey K Smith

“We have such an impressive lineup of bold female voices this year and it’s an amazing opportunity to have four poets of their calibre all together on one stage,” said co-founder & festival producer Justine Henzell. “It also coincides with Calabash being selected to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the prestigious Man Booker Prize. This speaks to the pedigree of the festival and the regard in which it is held worldwide.”

The Calabash Literary Festival will be held at Jakes in Treasure Beach, St Elizabeth, from June 1-3, 2018, under the theme ‘Lit Up.’ The event is free and open to the public.

Join the conversation online by using the hashtags #calabash2018 and #calabashLitUp