Sunday, 3 March 2013

2013 Love Affair With Literature 2, UWI Mona

Dr Michael Bucknor, Head, Dept of Literatures in English 
A version of this article was published in the Sunday Observer Bookends, March 9, 2013

University of the West Indies
Department of Literatures in English
in association with 
The Book Industry Association of Jamaica 

Love Affair With Literature 2
11:00AM March 3 2013
Neville Hall Lecture Theatre
UWI, Mona

The second staging of Love Affair With Literature featuring four well-known and outstanding Jamaican creative writers.

Tanya Batson-Savage retells with reverence and pleasure

Reading from her collection of folk tales, Pumpkin Belly and Other Stories, journalist and creative industries policy specialist Tanya Batson-Savage said that she had grown up loving to read stories and also to listen to her grandmother tell stories. Her selection for the event was The Thing With The Tail, which is about a boy who broke a firm rule set by his mother and so got into an frightful situation beyond his control.

Edward Baugh recalled other notable persons in his poems
A new collection Black Sand is anticipated 

Several of the poems read by poet and scholar Edward Baugh were inspired by real people. Baugh's opening poem What's Poetry For? happens at the end of an interview where the poet was asked that question, and he left the interview disheartened.

Slight and Ornamental counteracts reviews about a poem by drawing a comparison with the elegant gift of nature, the Lignum Vitae tree (Kricogonia Lyside) butterfly, itself slight and ornamental.

At Coventry is dedicated to a moment when Baugh encountered the name of notable English poet, Philip Larkin, respectfully mounted in the train station of Larkin's home town, and of Baugh recalling Larkin's own poem I Remember, I Remember which is dedicated to a moment when he also passed through Coventry.

For Cecil Baugh recalls the physical presence of the notable potter, and touches on that great master's own teacher Ma Lou.

Soundings for Kamau Braithwaite - 1983 at the University of Los Angeles where Baugh saw and felt the sound and presence of a strong Barbados woman in Braithwaite's recitation.

Monumental Work is about the first president of the United States of America George Washington; his physical grandeur, his physical flaws, and the contrasts in the behaviour of his character.

Hurrying Across Hill Country recalls the anxiety when you face real danger while driving "It will recur, the moment, the elusive immanent, the always about to happen, but never quite."

Black Sand touches on a black sand beach as a great metaphor for life.

Three days before this event, Mr Baugh wrote For Attention - on opening a folder and seeing a letter unanswered, an associate,  forgotten.

Baugh ended with humour - The Obituary Page. "I wonder why nobody can't just die anymore? Is either you fell asleep or made your transition or were called to the Lord or passed away.  Even death they have reposing."

Lorna Goodison in Iberia, Jamaica and Canada
Lorna Goodison started her set with her customary invocation, immediately followed by some of her well-known poems. Road of the Dread; After the Green Gown of My Mother Gone Down; Black Like This; To Make Various Sorts of Black According to the Craftsman's Handbook.

Her other poems spanned the Iberian Peninsula, Kingston Jamaica and British Colombia in Canada.

Taking her listeners to the Spain and Portugal she recalled You Should Go to Toledo, after a discussion about the El Greco collection in the Prado Museum in Madrid. La Casa Dos Dorados about the dignity of a statue of a female black saint in a shop in Portugal. Africans in the Plazas of Madrid  and Lisbon recall the plight of unsettled, maybe refugee, Africans making a life hustling in those cities.

She returned to Jamaica with Hope Gardens defying scholarly work that said that there was a dastardly colonial plot in the establishment of the gardens, and simply recalling the joy of visits there as a child.
'Colonial design? And even if, so what! As long as they flung wide those two leaved wrought iron double gates!"

Her Canada poem is on finally coming face to face with her greatest fear in British Colombia, a Black Bear. In The Bear she says, "Like a long legged pigeon toed man with a gait presidential, bopping, cool, slightly shambolic, dipped in front of the car. My heart leaped and leaped."

In the Blue Boarding House - which recalled Goodison's thoughts about pursuing a career as a blues singer, and then realizing that that she could not be "aspiring to live somebody else life done live". "Last night's still life laid careless out on the tiles....lace garter belt hooked to silk stockings, stiletto heels, white flower pristine by bag with bloody syringe. We who had not signed long leases were savvy enough never to touch her stuff, we got high on black coffee."

Ascending Old Stony Hill
Her poem on a sacred enjoyment of a drive across Jamaica's hills.

Kei Miller showed his well worn copy of
Lorna Goodison's first book 
Paying tribute to writer Lorna Goodison, Kei Miller read the first verse from her poem Mother the Great Stones Got to Move which explains that some persons have the task to reveal more of our nation's history.

In his unpublished novella - The Rather Raunchy Obituary of Everton Campbell Miller challenges a stereotype of how the story of a Jamaican man should be told. He said that the story confirmed everything that the reader already knows about Jamaica, even while it disturbs. He said that the content does not intend to be gratuitous, but to help to answer a question that perhaps the reader has already started to ask himself or herself.

Miller notes that the traditional storytelling of Jamaican men includes characters such as a lovable buffoon trying to make his way in a confusing and modern world; eloquent digressions of the post colonial condition written in a lyrical style. He said also that Jamaican writing had nothing dark or tragic in the material; does not include too many white people; and stayed away from the sexually avant garde or raunchy.

His next untitled reading was a meeting between a Jamaican Rastaman and a white cartographer, both seeing the route to a place called Zion very differently - one through measurement and science, and the other through livity and spirituality.

Miller's travels were revealed in a poem called Prayer of an Unflummoxed Beaver, and recalls his admiration of a beaver that he saw while travelling on a boat in a New Orleans bayou. This poem was written as a prayer for a sick friend. He closed with the intimate night poem, Distance.

Kellie Magnus, Editorial Director of Jackmandora publishing
and Director of the Book Industry Association of Jamaica 
Book Industry of Jamaica Director/Publishing, Kellie Magnus, noted that the event was the first literary event of the second staging of Kingston Book Week.