How we were Lit Up with poetry at Calabash 2018!
There were poems by women at the height of their greatness from Guyana/UK, USA and Liberia; by Lady Laureates from the UK, USA, Canada and Jamaica; by Fierce Flowers from Sudan, Somalia/UK and Jamaica; by Jamaica’s Ishion Hutchinson; from Kamau Braithwaite’s “The Arrivants”; and plenty more poets reading at the Open Mike. There were poems to appeal to everyone, including me. Thank you to Kwame Dawes, Justine Henzell and the rest of the Calabash team for staging another wonderful festival.
|Lady Laureates: Tracy K. Smith (USA), Carol Ann Duffy (UK)|
Georgette LeBlanc (Canada) and Lorna Goodison (JA).
Photo Courtesy of Susumba
There were prose readings, too, and reasonings and music, but I’m purposefully focusing on poetry. My appreciation of poetry did not begin until 2004 at Calabash. At school, it was slow torture for me to stand in front of the class, unable to recite the poem I knew by heart five minutes before; and exasperation for my mother when English homework was to write a poem with rhyme and meter. For ‘O’ level English Lit, we studied Milton’s “Comus”, of which I have absolutely no recollection. I was glad to say goodbye to poetry. I wonder if children nowadays have similar sentiments.
|Linton Kwesi Johnson reading from|
Kamau Brathwaite's "The Arrivants".
Photo courtesy of Susumba.
In perusing Rainbow Readers – A Jamaican Reading Series, Grade Four, by Roma Sinanan and Uriel Narinesingh, I found twenty-two poems. Only one of these is by a Jamaican – Andrew Salkey. There are fourteen by Caucasians, eight men and six women, from the USA or the UK, born before 1910; one Indian (Rabindranath Tagore, 1861-1941); one First Family American woman (born in 1896); and one African American (Langston Hughes, 1902-1967). About the remaining four poets, three women and one man, I can find out very little. I presume are contemporary, Caucasian, because of the subject matter of their poems.
Furthermore, in the selected poem by Langston Hughes, “Aunt Sue’s Stories”:
“Aunt Sue cuddles a brown-faced child …and tells him stories”
“And the dark-faced child listening…” knows the origin of the stories, which are about slavery. How would twenty-first century nine-year-olds react to such a poem?
Why are there no poems by Lorna Goodison herself, or Claude McKay, Mervyn Morris, Edward Baugh, Velma Pollard, Olive Senior, Kwame Dawes, Kei Miller, Louise Bennett, Jean Binta Breeze or any other Jamaican poet? It is sad that most of the poems fourth grade students will read were written by poets who lived so far away and long ago.
|Calabash Bay, Treasure Beach - Festival Venue in the distance.|
2012 photo by HumphreyWallis