Who made the list? Our pick of Top 8 Caribbean Poets
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The Caribbean Poetry Movement gave Caribbean people a unique voice. It was an opportunity to express ideas in local dialect reflecting local customs and not simply imitating the works of colonizers. Many West Indian islands were heavily influenced by Europeans, and, from early school days, students were encouraged to learn the works of Shakespeare, Chaucer and other prominent European authors. However, the Caribbean Poetry Movement gave local writers an opportunity to use that foundation and translate it into something that more closely represented the heart and culture of the people and the home in which they lived. Caribbean Poetry became the framework from which lots of cultural expression was born including music such as reggae and calypso.
What do you think the Caribbean can do to better promote its poetry?.
Name: Derek Walcott
Island: St. Lucia
Derek Alton Walcott won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992 – the first individual from the English-speaking Caribbean to do so. His prize winning book Omeros (poem) – published in 1990 tipped the scales in his favour.
Born at Castries, Saint Lucia on 23rd January 1930 to Alix and Warwick Walcott he is the twin brother of Roderick Alden Walcott who is also a dramatist and writer. He has one older sister Pamela Walcott St. Hill. His mother was a school teacher and his father a civil servant.
He set up the Trinidad Theatre Workshop in Port-of-Spain and was able to produce his plays such as Dream on Monkey Mountain , Henri Christophe and The Joker of Seville .
He received a number of awards for his work such as the Pegasus Award for Poetry, the Guinness Award for Poetry, and the Cholmondeley Prize for Poetry. In 1957 he was awarded a fellowship by the Rockefeller Foundation to study theatre in the United States.He also received the Hummingbird Gold Medal from Dr. Eric Williams.
Notable Works: Love after Love, A City’s Death by Fire, A Far Cry from Africa, The Sea is History, Blues, After the Storm
Data Source: http://www.stlucianobellaureates.org/new_page_1.htm
- He was trained in Electronics and took employment at the Jamaica Telephone Company Limited.During his time at the Telephone Company he began to examine Rastafarianism and to find it more meaningful than either the Roman Catholicism of his upbringing or the political radicalism into which he had drifted.
- In the late 1960s into early 1970s there was an uproaring of Black Awareness in Jamaica. Hope, who was in his late teens at the time, was drawn into that movement. He began examining and immersing himself in the Rasta lifestyle.
- He stopped wearing shoes, stopped combing his hair, started growing locks, and altered his diet. Soon after, he converted completely to the movement.
- He adopted the name Mutabaruka, a Rwandan term meaning “one who is always victorious”.
- He has received many awards including the Vivek Awards, Lifetime award from Kubba Pringle, Producer of Bob Marley Birthday Bash at MX3 Entertainment lawn. National Centre for Youth Development (NCYD) and the Rotaract Club of Mandeville for over 30 years of outstanding work in the field of the arts.
Notable Works:“Nursery Rhyme Lament”. Weh mi belang?, Wailin, Church II, DABADDABUNINNA (they beat me), ‘Every Time a Ear De Soun’, Dis Poem
Name: Kamau Brathwaite
- Born Lawson Edward Brathwaite in the capital city of Bridgetown, Barbados.In 1949 he won the Barbados Island Scholarship to attend Cambridge University, where he studied English and History.
- Brathwaite was the co-founder of the Caribbean Artists Movement (CAM).
- Brathwaite is noted for his studies of Black cultural life both in Africa and throughout the African diasporas of the world in works such as Folk Culture of the Slaves in Jamaica (1970); The Development of Creole Society in Jamaica, 1770-1820 (1971); Contradictory Omens (1974); Afternoon of the Status Crow (1982); and History of the Voice (1984), the publication of which established him as the authority of note on nation language.
- Brathwaite’s honors include the Casa de las Americas Prize for Literary Criticism, the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, the Bussa Award, and the Charity Randall Prize for Performance and Written Poetry, as well as fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Guggenheim Foundation.
- Brathwaite has worked in Ghana’s Ministry of Education, as well as teaching at Harvard University, the University of the West Indies, and New York University.
Notable Works: Elegguas (2010), the Griffin International Poetry Prize winner Slow Horses (2005), Ancestors (2001), Middle Passages (1992), and Black + Blues (1976). His first three collections, Rights of Passage (1967), Masks (1968), and Islands (1969)
Data Source: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/kamau-brathwaite
Name: Anson Gonzalez
Island: Trinidad & Tobago
- In the early ’70s he began to promote poetry and work toward sustaining the literary culture of the Caribbean and Trinidad and Tobago in particular. In 1973 he founded, edited, and published The New Voices, a bi-annual literary journal which has published poems, plays, short stories, and non-fiction by more than 300 Caribbean writers.
- The New Voices was published continuously for 20 years and is now available upon request via electronic mail. He served the Caribbean writing community for 12 years by providing information about writers, literary competitions, grants, and workshops.
- He is one of the founders and former presidents of the Writers’ Union of Trinidad and Tobago. He also established the celebration of Poetry Day (October 15) in Trinidad and Tobago in 1979. The occasion is now observed annually in eight other Caribbean countries and has given poetry and poets a prominent place in the cultural calendar.
- He has conducted creative writing classes throughout the Caribbean, organized numerous literary competitions and poetry readings, obtained and awarded prizes to writers, and provided scholarships to writers’ workshops.
- He has been awarded the Writers’ Union Writer of the Year Award (1988), and honoured for his services to the Caribbean literary community by the University of Miami.
Notable Works: Merry Go Round, Collected Poems, Crossroads of Dream (2003), Chela Quest (2005), In my Own Words, In my Own Journal (2007), Proseleela (2007), Tabiz
- She was born in Eccles, East Bank Demerara, Guyana, in 1954 and wrote poetry from her early school days at Bishop’s High School, Georgetown.
- She was a dancer, actress, teacher and beauty queen, served as a volunteer member of the Guyana National Service around 1976 and was part of the Messenger Group promoting ‘Coolie’ art forms at a time when Indo-Guyanese culture was virtually excluded from national life.
- As a young poet, Das published some of her first pieces in several editions of KAIE, the official literary publication of Guyana’s History and Arts Council, as well as many other local publications. Her first major collection of poetry, I Want to be a Poetess of My People (1977), traced the roots of the Guyanese people from indentureship to independence.
- She has written poetry explicitly relating to ethnic identity, something which contrasts her with other female Indo-Caribbean poets. Another theme in her writing is the working conditions in the Caribbean islands.
- She died in 2003, from illness relating to cardiac arrest suffered 10 days before her death.
Notable Works: Bones’ (Peepal Tree Press Ltd., 1988), A Leaf in His Ear: Selected Poems (Peepal Tree Press Ltd., 2010), I Want to be a Poetess of my People , My Finer Steel Will Grow
Name: Wendy Guerra
- She began writing poetry almost as soon as she could swim.Her first collection, Platea a oscuras, won her a prize from the University of Havana when she was barely 17.
- She took a degree in filmmaking at Havana’s Instituto Superior de Arte, but she managed to avoid any kind of career in broadcast media. She kept writing.
- Her mother was the first person to suggest Guerra keep a diary. Another potent source of inspiration was Anaïs Nin, the legendary diarist. Her diaries formed the basis for her intimate (yet nominally fictional) first novel, Todos Se Van (They All Leave), which was published in 2006 and has become an international bestseller.
Notable Works: – Platea a oscura, 1987,- Cabeza rapada, 1996, Ropa interior, 2008.
Data Source: http://havana-cultura.com/en/literature/wendy-guerra
Island: Trinidad and Tobago
- She has served as a founding member of various cultural organizations, including the Writers Union of Trinidad and Tobago, National Drama Association of Trinidad and Tobago, and the Caribbean Theatre Guild.
- Springer is a devotee of the Orisa religion.
- Her awards include the Trinidad & Tobago Humming Bird Medal Silver (for Culture) in 1996 ,2004: Vanguard Award of the National Drama Association of Trinidad and Tobago (NDATT).In May 2002, she was named Poet Laureate of Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.
Notable Works: Moving Into the Light (2001), Focussed, Godchild, Stories and Poems for Children, Out of the Shadows, Loving the Skin I’m In (2005)
Name: Marion Bethel
- Bethel began teaching in the Bahamas and became a lecturer at the College of The Bahamas.
- She studied law at Cambridge University, passed her bar exams in September 1984, was admitted to the Bar of England and Wales in 1985 and has practiced law in the Bahamas since 1986.
- Her collection of poems Guanahani, My Love received the Casa de las Américas Prize in 1995. In 1997, Bethel was named the Alice Proskauer Poetry Fellow at the Mary Ingraham Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College. Her second collection of poems Bougainvillea Ringplay was published in 2009.
- In 2012, she directed Womanish Ways: Freedom, Human Rights & Democracy, the Women’s Suffrage Movement in The Bahamas 1948 to 1962, a documentary on the struggle to gain women the right to vote in the Bahamas. The film won the 2012 Award in Documentary at the Urban Suburban International Film Festival in Philadelphia.
Notable Works: Guanahani, My Love , Bougainvillea Ringplay
Tell us about a Caribbean poet from your island who should be on the list….
(Disclaimer: This list was compiled by the subjective opinions and preferences of the 2BKaribbean team. It does not by any means reflect the numerous talented poets that are prevalent throughout the region.)