Celebrating Four Caribbean Poets on World Poetry Day
by Karen Rollins Mar 18, 2019
The United Nations declared 21 March World Poetry Day in 1999.
The organisation says the main objectives of the day is: “To encourage a return to the oral tradition of poetry recitals, to promote the teaching of poetry, to restore a dialogue between poetry and the other arts such as theatre, dance, music and painting, and to support small publishers and create an attractive image of poetry in the media, so that the art of poetry will no longer be considered an outdated form of art, but one which enables society as a whole to regain and assert its identity.”
In honour of World Poetry Day, Yello is celebrating four Caribbean poets who have gained national and international recognition for their work.
Sir Derek Walcott
Born: 23 January 1930 (Castries, St Lucia)
Bio: When he was 18 years old, Derek Walcott borrowed $200 to print his first book of poetry called ‘25 Poems,’ and he handed copies out on the street, but his breakthrough came in 1962 with a collection of poems, ‘In a Green Night.’
Walcott’s poetry often focuses on the colonial history of the Caribbean along with the themes of language and identity.
He is arguably best known for his 1990 epic poem ‘Omeros’ which reimagined the Trojan War as a fight between Caribbean fishermen. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992.
Died: 17 March 2017
Born: 1 August 1947 (Kingston, Jamaica)
Bio: Lorna Goodison is recognised as one of the best poets of the post-war generation. She has published several books of poetry including ‘I am Becoming my Mother,’ ‘Controlling the Silver’ and ‘Supplying Salt and Light,’ and her work has also appeared in numerous anthologies.
Goodison’s poems revolve around her home country and she often utilises Jamaican-inspired humour to convey her thoughts on triumph and tragedy. She was appointed Poet Laureate of Jamaica in 2017.
Born: 11 May 1930 (Bridgetown, Barbados)
Bio: Poet, historian and co-founder of the Caribbean Artists Movement, Kamau Brathwaite is widely respected as one of the leading Caribbean poets and intellectuals of the 20th Century.
Brathwaite’s work primarily explores the roots of Caribbean culture and its unbreakable connection to Africa. But he’s probably best known for developing an unconventional style which challenges the usual structure of poetry and mimics the calypso and jazz rhythms inherent in West Indian speech pattern.
Born: 18 January 1950 (Georgetown, Guyana)
Bio: Grace Nichols was awarded the Commonwealth Poetry Prize after releasing her first book of poetry, ‘I is a Long-Memoried Woman,’ in 1983. The collection was a first-person narrative that recounted the brutality of slavery through the eyes of black women.
Nichols’ strong interest in her Guyanese ancestry, as well as Amerindian myths, Guyanese folk tales, and the Aztec and Inca civilisations, plays a major role in her work.
She’s also known for interchanging traditional English language with Creole and writes poems for children and adults.
Her latest work, ‘The Insomnia Poems,’ was published in 2017.
Yello hopes you celebrate World Poetry Day by reading some of the work by these leading Caribbean poets.