English professor shortlisted for Caribbean’s top literary award

May 18, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Poet and Penn State Liberal Arts Professor of English Shara McCallum received the Poetry Prize at the Bocas LitFest in Port of Spain, Trinidad, on April 28. McCallum is a celebrated Jamaican poet and was also one of two finalists named to the short list of the 2018 OCM Bocas Prize, the Caribbean’s top literary award, sponsored by One Caribbean Media.

McCallum was nominated for her book "Madwoman," which is her fifth book of poems. McCallum’s poems draw on personal and collective memory and are an exploration of womanhood.

“Winning the Bocas Poetry Prize for Caribbean Literature and being one of two writers shortlisted for the overall prize is one of the most significant honors I've received for my poems,” said McCallum. “Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott was the recipient of the first prize. In the years since, Caribbean poets and prose writers whose works I greatly admire have won the prizes, have been on the short and long lists, and have served as the judges for the awards. I am grateful to be in such company. It's also especially personally meaningful to me as someone from Jamaica who came to the U.S. in late childhood and who writes out of that experience, of being a Caribbean person and an immigrant.”

McCallum is the author of five collections of poetry: “The Water Between Us” (1999), “Song of Thieves” (2003), “This Strange Land” (2011), “The Face of Water: New and Selected Poems” (2011), and “Madwoman” (2017). Her work has appeared in numerous journals, including The Antioch Review, Chelsea, The Iowa Review, and Verse. Previous accolades include the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize in 1998, the Witter Bynner Award from the Library of Congress in 2013, a Tennessee Individual Artist Grant in Literature, and a grant from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund.

McCallum was born in Jamaica and moved to the United States at the age of nine. She received her bachelor of arts degree from the University of Miami, her master of fine arts from the University of Maryland, and her doctorate in poetry and African American and Caribbean literature from Binghamton University in New York. McCallum was the director of the Stadler Center for Poetry at Bucknell for ten years and now teaches creative writing and literature at Penn State.

Earlier this year she read her works as part of the Mary E. Rolling Reading Series, a project within Penn State’s Creative Writing Program in English.

  • Shara McCallum

    McCallum is a celebrated Jamaican poet and a professor of English at Penn State.

    IMAGE: photo provided

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Last Updated May 21, 2018