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Poetry Resonating and Shining

The light and sound of poetry transfigured the island during the weekend of October 14 –16. This weekend may quite easily be referred to as Poetry Weekend. There were at least four events that celebrated poetry.

It began with a tertulia (gathering) of writers and intellectuals, organised by the Columbian Embassy and Dr. Manuel Zapata. Held at the courtyard of the National Museum and Art Gallery, it featured prose writing. Apiece of travel writing about Columbia by Mr. Nurse was presented. This elicited long discussions about Columbia past and present. A story by Mr. Milne, a journalist, who described school days of some decades ago, was also presented. Some restive poets in the audience, feeling outdone, hijacked the proceedings at that point much to their delight, and the evening petered out in narcissistic hi-jinx. For the most part the was quite enjoyable.

The next morning featured the annual award function of the 12-year old CLICO Poetry Writing Competition. This is a major poetry event in the high school calendar. This year there were more than 200 entries.

On Saturday morning the Church of God fellowship in San Fernando, held a successful World Poetry Day event. Initiated by Pearl D. Griffith, it featured inspirational speakers Madonna Sampson and Debra Jean-Baptiste Samuel, while Willi Chen, HBM was guest speaker. The Christian poets groups read poetry, performed calypso, and recited some biblical works.

Later in the evening, the Writers Union of Trinidad and Tobago (WUTT) held its observance at Dretchi in Port-of-Spain. A Cultural Officer from the Ministry of Culture and Gender Affairs addressed the audience. She wished them well, appreciated their work, and outlined the proposals of her ministry, which may have a role for WUTT to play. The panel of poets old and new presented excellent readings. The poets included Br. Book, Dionyse Mc Tair, Anson Gonzalez, Marina Omowale Maxwell among others. Members of the WUTT Central chapter also participated.

A feature of the session was the announcement of the re-publication of octogenarian poet, A.M. Clarke’s 1943 anthology, Best Poems of Trinidad, perhaps the first anthology of Trinidad and Tobago poetry. It is certainly an event, especially as the editor-publisher is still among us. A.M. Clarke has been a member, and often an officer of WUTT since its inception in 1980. He read from the work and presented copies to WUTT and Anson Gonzalez, in appreciation for services rendered.

Coming in the mail at the same time was a CD, Y42K, by former WUTT associate and former T&T senator, Roi Kwabena. Kwabena, traveller, poet, lecturer, publisher is currently domiciled in Birmingham, England, where he is doing interesting things as a cultural activist. The CD, Y42K, contains fourteen tracks – Roi’s version of Rapso. He speaks/chants the poems/lyrics and also plays the djembe, bongos, flute, handcall and bottle and spoon. The CD is an excellent medium for performance poets and Kwabena is leading the way. His contribution at this time helps to complete the poetry weekend and season.

Also in the mail this weekend was a chapbook collection, Manzanilla, by Knolly S. La Fortune. He is another from the time of A.M. Clarke, with quite a similar background. They both began to write while they were students at the Government Training College for teachers in the 1940s. Though La Fortune has been domiciled in England for decades, the poems resonate with Trinidadian influences. One of the poems, ‘Carnival Rhapsody’, is still used in school choral speaking competitions, and may therefore be the best known down here. Mr La Fortune’s contribution, like Mr. Clarke’s and former senator Kwabena’s, helped to make the season resound with poetry.

Oh, I almost forgot, the Circle of Poets, held a reading at Davises, Oxford Street, Port-of-Spain, on Friday 15, October. Davises is an artsy restaurant, which accommodates readings, recitals, mini concerts, launchings and other cultural activities.

Truly, my poetic cup overflowed.