It was inevitable that Roy Bodden would become a noted voice on history and politics in Cayman. Growing up in the historic Guard House area of Bodden Town, and later becoming a legislator, minister of education, human resources and culture, and now president of the University College of the Cayman Islands, his background is as expansive as his writings.
Relying on his experience in politics and education and position as a “concerned Caymanian and native son,” Bodden will soon release a collection of poems, “Reflections from a Broken Mirror,” which delves deep into the political, emotional and psychological neocolonialist bonds that the self-professed “fervent anti-colonialist” says Cayman must break free of.
“Reflections” is Bodden’s fifth book, following on from “The Cayman Islands in Transition: The Politics, History and Sociology of a Changing Society,” “Stories My Grandfather Never Told Me,” “Patronage; Personalities and Parties: Caymanian Politics from 1950-2000” and “A Gathering of Old Men.”
A year before starting this collection of poetry, Bodden began a “mental reflection on the project,” ultimately completing the writing within six months. The work is separated into themes: Identity, Political, Places, The Struggle, and Performance Poems.
Bodden says he is “consumed by the journey of Cayman,” a passion which has driven his body of work, and continues to do so in “Reflections.” The inspiration for the poems is his concern for Cayman society and his realization that “many Caymanians do not understand what has transpired through globalization.”
Bodden has previously noted that while other territories may have moved on politically, culturally and economically, Cayman has struggled to find its identity. He says Cayman society uses wealth as a measure of success over intellect, to its own disadvantage.
“Comparatively speaking, we have been measuring our progress on a faulty report card because we perceive individual wealth to be more important than an informed and content populace,” he says. “Currently, the prospects for peace, order and good relations are being undermined by wage stagnation, income inequality and the shrinking of the middle class.
“I find it frighteningly discouraging that the voices which remind us of our societal obligations are so shamelessly removed from our public consciences. This is not the ‘modus operandi’ in progressive democratic societies and yet we claim to be “free” and “democratic.”
Bodden is inspired and influenced by a wide range of authors and poets, such as Kamau Brathwaite, Derek Walcott and the dub poets Benjamin Zephaniah and Mutabaruka. A “flavour of Louise Bennett’s wit and humour” is also noted in his book’s foreword by M. Theresa Pitcairn, who says it appears in the Performance Poems section of the collection.
“However, the West Indian author whose writings and philosophy I most admire is George Lamming,” says Bodden, “although my political philosophy and anti-colonial stance has been influenced by a plethora of historians and authors such as Walter Rodney, Frantz Fanon, Frederick Douglass, Marcus Garvey and Paulo Freire, to cite a few.”
“Reflections” is a change from Bodden’s more serious historical and sociological works, and he made the transition with the view that poetry does not date as quickly, and also allows for a wider readership, as it opens up his work to people who would not usually read more weighty historical works. His desire was “to publish poems with a wider interest, specifically political poems which complemented the short stories and the more serious works on Caymanian society.”
He is already working on his next volume of poetry, “Borrowed Lines,” as well as a collection of short stories, which he hopes will be published next fall.
Bodden’s plans do not stop here, as he still has genres yet to tackle. “I would also like to test my ability by writing a novel, and indeed, I have a skeletal outline for it already.”
For his most recent work, due to be released in December, Bodden has continued his long relationship with Ian Randle Publishers, however it is his wife Nancy who is invaluable to his writings. “She is my first-line editor, my confidant and my priest to whom I lament when things don’t go well,” he said. “Finally, and perhaps most importantly, she is my greatest admirer and fan.” Indeed, it was Nancy who was the reason for, and recipient of, his poetic endeavors in years past.
Through his collection of poems, Bodden hopes to take on a multifaceted role for his readers.
“First of all, I am an informer; serious, studied and brutally frank. Then I am an entertainer, taking my readers to places never previously traversed,” he says. “And finally I am sobering, writing of what will come if we don’t find a way to bridge the divide between ‘us’ and ‘them.’“
As for what he hopes will come from people reading his work, he lets his own poetry provide the message: “I hope that my works can promote understanding. For, we need to heed this ‘… come by pain or come by plane … the mirror says we‘re all the same.’”