With anthology of poems, Makeda Braithwaite seeks 2nd Guyana Prize award

Makeda Braithwaite at the 2022 awards ceremony

For almost a year, Makeda Braithwaite lived with the disquieting thought that someone would inform her that her Guyana Prize for Literature award (third place Fiction, 2022) was a huge mistake.
“It (winning the award) still hasn’t sunk in,” she laughingly told Guyana Times last week. “I kept waiting for them to ask me to return the prize money.”
A year after her award for her collection, ‘An Anthology of Shivers’, Makeda is experiencing that same state of euphoria and disbelief.
Her poetry collection, Go Fish, Go In The Pack, has been shortlisted for the Guyana Prize for Literature 2023 (First Book of Poetry).
And though she said she’s matured as a writer since winning her Fiction award, Makeda admits she has been “extremely surprised” that her anthology of poems, including some written in her teens, has made the shortlist.
“I did not think my poems possessed the maturity that was worthy of the Guyana Prize. Winning would mean that my efforts were appreciated, and the judges found my collection cohesive and well-crafted. To be shortlisted alone is a great boost,” she declared.
The former St. Joseph High student has said she explored several themes in ‘Go Fish, Go In The Pack.’
“There are a variety of themes — which is where the title of ‘go in the pack’ came from. You go into a pack of ideas and themes. There’s a section for speculative poems and a section for love poems. I wrote about social issues, speculative stuff, maturing and failure. Some of these poems were written when I was sixteen, some a week before I submitted. I think I have matured, as I have become much more deliberate in what I write now, and I don’t rush as I did before,” she explained.
Her perseverance has borne success. FIYAH Literary Magazine, which publishes speculative fiction by black writers, has published her short story, “The Pastry Shop Round the Bend”, which is one of the stories from Makeda’s award-winning collection.
“Many of my ideas came from the fiction I read and that my parents exposed me to. Sometimes they spring from something I passed on the street, or a private moment.
I’ve been writing since school days. I had a lot of encouraging teachers while attending St Joseph’s High School, who were supportive; like Ms. Michelle Cummings, Ms. Anatha Morris, and Ms Martina Byrne,”she disclosed.
In a previous interview, Makeda revealed that one of her early childhood literary influences was ‘Interview With A vampire’ author Anne Rice; but then she began to take a more serious interest in West Indian writers, such as Samuel Selvon. Grenadian poet Merle Collins, Adrienne Rich, and Derek Walcott are among her great influences.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that this talented 26-year-old is the daughter of Barrington Braithwaite, who is one of the Caribbean’s leading graphic artists, and the creator of the Guyanese super-hero ‘The Jaguar.’ He’s also a fount of knowledge of local myths and folklore, particularly those linked to the rainforests.
“I’m definitely who I am because of my father. My parents, Donna and Barry, are my most ardent supporters; as well as my close friend Gabriel, who reads almost everything I’ve published, and my best friends Aaliyah and Nicola,” she disclosed.
Makeda is the Editorial Production Officer at UG Press, as well as a Submissions Editor at the Hugo Award-winning Uncanny Magazine. “I’m currently working on a few other projects I can’t share,” she said.
She has recently been added to a science fiction anthology that would begin to raise funding for publication this year from MVMedia called Spacefunk!