Caribbean poets honored on World Poetry Day in Cayman

New and seasoned poets gathered in Camana Bay Tuesday evening for a night of recital and cultural celebration in honor of World Poetry Day.

The evening’s event, put on by volunteers from the Cayman Literary Development Programme, paid homage to poets from across the Caribbean.

Invited guest Mervyn Morris, Jamaica’s poet laureate, began the night with an elegy to St. Lucian writer Derek Walcott, who died on March 17, and a reading of his work “Love After Love.”

Local artist Annikki Brown hoped the evening would spark greater interest in poetry as a medium and the tradition of oral recitals. She described poetry as an art form that reaffirms common humanity and emotion across cultures.

Students from St. Ignatius Catholic School and Clifton Hunter High School read their own works.

Inspired by the readings, young poet Lauren Williams joined the program with an impromptu reading of her spoken-language work.

Chief deputy officer Nancy Barnard of the Ministry of Health and Culture shared a rumor that Premier Alden McLaughlin is also a poet.

“What I am trying to do is eke that out of him to see some of his poetry and read some of his poetry,” she said.

She praised volunteers and organizer Michel Powery Yin for their work to independently promote culture and arts in the Cayman Islands. She hoped the evening would serve as an impetus to pass a national culture and heritage plan, tabled last week in the Legislative Assembly.

“That should be able to give us the gravitas and strength … to push for greater budgets so that people like Michel Powery Yin and others don’t have to do this all on volunteer time,” she said.

Local poets Nasaria Suckoo-Chollette and Philip Paschalides read a sampling of their works. Both poets participated in a weekend poetry workshop with the evening’s special guest, Mr. Morris. Earlier in the day, Mr. Morris encouraged greater frequency and consistency in writer workshops to promote interest and foster relationships.

Local poet and artist Nasaria Suckoo-Chollette reads a sampling of her work on World Poetry Day.

The Jamaican poet held several workshops while in the Cayman Islands, including a free workshop for teen writers. He hoped exposure to contemporary and Caribbean poets would awaken interest in young writers.

Mr. Morris recently released a compilation of his works, called “Peelin Orange.” He read from the book Tuesday evening, providing a sample of the diverse voices heard in his spoken form.

“I tinker all the time, even after a work’s in print,” he said, explaining the compilation allowed him to look back and update old pieces.

“Revision is not a temptation but an opportunity and a challenge to make things different. Texts can change.”

He named several young Jamaican poets of note, including Ishion Hutchinson, Tanya Shirley, and Ann-Margaret Lim.

Young poet Lauren Williams felt inspired by the evening’s recital and popped in for an impromptu reading.
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