Caymanian poet’s adventures in London

Nasaria Suckoo-Chollette represented Cayman at a special Poetry Parnassus, held in conjunction with the Olympics in London. Poets gathered from across the globe to give readings and masterclass workshops. A host of the most exciting poets, rappers, spoken-word artists, singers and storytellers came together for this groundbreaking festival, including Seamus Heaney, Simon Armitage, Wole Soyinka and more. Nasaria’s written up a diary for Weekender.

Sunday, 29 January

Just come back from Christmas vacation, wading through tedious e-mails. Does anyone realise how hard I would work for four days a week if the weekend was three days long? Give Monday a break from being hated and let Tuesday have a turn. Somebody named Jana at Southbank Centre wants to get in touch with me to invite me to represent the Cayman Islands at an Olympic Poetry Festival. Do I hear angels singing?

Sunday, 24 June

Landed safely and now zipping through a surprisingly sunny London day. First day in a month that there has been no rain. Driver’s glad we brought some Cayman sunshine with us. Buckingham Palace. Wow, I wonder if the Queen is home. She should be alerted that I have arrived. After all, when she came to Cayman I stood out in the hot sun to get a glimpse of her. Smile.

The Travelodge is comfortable, although it took me two hours to explain to the concierge that I needed a washrag, apparently they call it a flannel and most people don’t use them. At any rate, if I want one I’d have to go down to the Boots and buy one. Boots?

Over 200 poets from every country possible are milling around this village and I feel like a groupie. Everyone is so welcoming. And suddenly there he was, the poet I had read about, the now exiled Jang Jin-sung, ex-state poet to North Korea’s Kim Jong–il, who had barely escaped with his life, asking me for my autograph.

Monday, 25 June

Internationally Published Poet: Today we got our copies of the The World Record: International Voices from Southbank Centre’s Poetry Parnassus. There I am on page 67 between Cape Verde and Central African Republic. Then I got chosen to be one of only six poets to be featured in the London Financial Times. I’m proper chuffed.

Tuesday, 26 June

I regret what I said earlier about giving Tuesday a chance to be hated, because today I got interviewed and filmed performing my poetry. I am going to be on the BBC!

I just heard my poem blasted out over speakers at Southbank Centre. Surreal!

Wrote my poem on special made paper to be a part of the handwritten anthology; an historical document that will be touring the world. The desk we wrote on has also become an historical object and we all had to sign the leather top. My signature was third to go on.

Rain of Poems: It was like Christmas in summer in the park right under the London eye. Southbank Centre has printed our poems on bookmarks, dropped them out of a helicopter, and mayhem began. Big grown-up people, running around chasing pieces of paper, pushing children out of the way, climbing trees, on top of each other, catching poems.

You know what I love most about this festival? I am a respected artist here. I am judged solely by my work. Each artist is simply respected for their gifts. There is not one bad-minded person seeking to colour the event with negativity; no one seeking to diminish the quality of my work because of the “we/them” thing; I should stay.

Wednesday, 27 June

I met John Agaard today. I had to sneak into his poetry reading because tickets were all sold out. He’s mentioned in my bio as one of my favourite poets. Wow.

Thursday, 28 June

I heard Wole Soyinka read today. I studied him at Howard University back in 1990. The huge auditorium is so quiet. I hope no one can hear my heart pounding.

Saturday, 30 June

It’s my turn. A room full of other poets; my poet sisters from the Pacific Island, my new friend Mariama from The Gambia and my cousin Jonathan who lives in England now. Randy hits the drum and I begin, singing first, “echoes…” and then I let the poem roll up and out of me like a slave master’s whip against a bare back, the story Long Celia. They clap. I see the poet from Benin wipe a tear from her eye. She said it reminded her of home. Sigh; I have done what I came to do; made connections with the past that has influenced me so much yet seems to be foreign to my own people.

Monday, 1 July

Leaving London, it rained.

Poets Notes

Nasaria would like to give special thanks to her sponsors: Minitry of Tourism, Ministry of Culture, Edies Décor, Camana Bay, Private Sponsors and her mother Virginia Suckoo. The BBC Scotland has since requested to broadcast her poems during the Olympics and she is about to be published in the London Arts Journal, Scarf. The World Record will soon be available at The Book Nook.

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