Officials are encouraging the public to show their appreciation of Cayman’s poets during the annual World Poetry Day on Saturday.
In a statement released by government this week, Chief Officer in the Ministry of Culture Jennifer Ahearn said the ministry thought this year would be an opportune time “to informally observe the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) World Poetry Day … with a view to more formally and actively observing the day in future years.”
To mark World Poetry Day, the Cayman National Cultural Foundation is hosting the screening of a documentary on Caribbean Poet Laureate Derek Walcott. The screening of “Poetry is an Island,” will take place at the Harquail Theatre at 7 p.m. on Saturday, after which director Ida Does will hold a Q&A session.
Nancy Barnard, the Ministry of Culture’s deputy chief officer, said the ministry is encouraging people to seek out the poetry and publications of Cayman’s resident poets. “Take a book of local poetry, such as Grown from this Ground by Leonard Dilbert, to a coffee shop or the beach this weekend; discuss … the poetry, perhaps become inspired to create your own poetry,” she said.
Local poet Nasaria Suckoo-Chollette believes that poets, artists, writers and songwriters are the soul of a country. “They give us a chance to express our inner feelings and examine our very existence. We can, through them, reflect on our past and set our course for our future. Without the avenue of poetry, I would simply go crazy,” she said.
She said that when she traveled to London to represent Cayman at Poetry Parnassus, she realized the work of Cayman’s poets is of a very high standard. “It was amazing to be amongst my peers and sharing my poems about my Caymanian experience and having them understand my work,” she said.
Ms. Suckoo-Chollette said poetry groups are springing up throughout Cayman, including two open-mic performances at Books & Books each month.
“What we are lacking here is the ability to publish books. It can be a very expensive process. We need to encourage more poets to publish their works so that they can continue to inspire new Caymanian poets,” she said.
Cayman Brac poet Quincy Brown said lots of people are writing poetry these days. He writes in both standard English and dialect using slang. One of his poems, “Mosquito turn Motorcar,” written in 1999, addresses the progress on the three islands over the years, from the days when people used smoke pans to keep mosquitoes at bay to driving modern cars and using insect repellent.
Kathleen Bodden-Harris, another Brac poet, said her love of poetry came from her father, a sea captain who wrote love letters to her mother when he was away. After he died, she ran across his book of poems. “When we went on road trips, he would give me a big book of poems to read and that’s where I got my love of poetry.”
Ms. Bodden-Harris’s poem for Poetry Day is titled, “Nanny’s Hammock,” which contains the lines: “I love to rock in Nanny’s hammock because we snuggle nice and tight; she rocks me there whenever I like, morning noon or night.”
Other active resident poets in Cayman include Roy Bodden, Alta Solomon, Damian Thaxter, Jamal Nugent, Kevin Creary, Michael McLaughlin, Melissa McField, Umberto Scano, Pal De Cruz-Jones, Krisha Arch, Gordon Solomon, Arikka Ebanks, Randy Chollette, Tish Scott, Priscilla Pouchie, Chelsea Walton, Michel Powery, Nicolas Ramos Lopez, Karolyn Smith, Matthew Hylton, Fiona Pimentel, Peter Westin, Barbara Garcia Anselmo, Lady Rabia, Sophia McKenzie and Eugene Christian.
Several local groups also encourage creative writing and poetry, including Culture Jam, Nosotros, Floetry, Better Read than Dead, and various personal book and poetry clubs.