A Little Jamaican Subversion

A little Jamaican subversion, with the help of my friends…

There was a capacity audience (not a very large space, but it was filled) at Bookland in New Kingston, on Saturday, 22 December, for the Jamaican launch of Subversive Sonnets. Guyanese poet, actress, playwright, puppeteer and educator, Jean Small, and author, philosopher, poet and painter, St Hope Earl McKenzie, were kind enough to join me in reading poems from the book. Although Subversive Sonnets was published by TSAR Publications in 2012 and is still holding its own (at #77) on amazon.ca’s list of books of poetry from the Caribbean and Latin America, no copies exist in bookshops (to the best of my knowledge), nor have ever done. It seemed perverse not to take advantage of being in Jamdown for a family wedding to introduce my latest, bad-behave, two-year-old creation.

As I said to the audience, as one gets older, one realizes that there is little in life that a person accomplishes alone. All of us alive now, together, constitute a community, and it’s groups of us, however large or small, who get things done. In addition, the community of now intersects with another community that threads back through time, by means of our personal and communal histories, and that also engines current events. The terms synchronic and diachronic that I learned long ago when I was studying a little linguistics serve to describe these communities well.

My sister, Dr Elizabeth Wilson and her husband, Dr Donald Wilson, who are both retired professors at UWI, Mona, worked their usual magic and put us in touch with the right people and the right places. Suzanne Lee, principal at Novelty Trading Company was enabling, and the Novtraco staff magnificent. MC for the event was Gillian Morgan, Manager of Novelty Trading Company who, along with the Bookland staff, helped us put the event together in little more than a week – a tribute to them and to poetry lovers in Jamaica.

Jean Small’s reading of the long story-poem, “Great Granny Mac” and St Hope Earl McKenzie’s kind comments on the poems (a bonus) were a treat for me. Earl read “Cockpit Country, a Tasting Tour,” a love poem, after which I read “Thomas Thistlewood and Tom,” a poem that begins, “Shit in my mouth…” and the second of three love poems in the book. (Its shock value is considerable — it claims a space almost anywhere.) I also read, “Counting the Ways and Marrying True Minds,” the last of the three L-poems, and took the liberty of addressing Martin, now and then, as I read it. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before. My sister-in-law Charmaine Mordecai’s sorrel was an especial, gustatory delight. It went quickly!

It was good to encounter old friends whom we had not seen for a long time, like Pat Dunn, Michael Reckord and Jeanne Barnes. It was also good to meet new folks, like the young poets, Millicent Graham, Ann-Margaret Lim and Tanya Shirley, as well as PhD student, Bryan Chitwood of Laney Graduate School at Emory University. As these poets readily acknowledge, their teachers and mentors, especially Poet Laureate, Mervyn Morris, and UWI Public Orator Emeritus, Edward Baugh, have seen to the handing on of the Jamaican poetry tradition in the very best fashion. Bravo!

A special treat was touching base with twitter compadre, cyber activist and vivacious redhead, Emma Lewis. Emma did a wonderful report on the event on gleanerblogs. http://gleanerblogs.com/socialimpact/?p=2373 Thanks, Emma! Big Ups! Respek!