Posted: 26 September 2012
PBS Director Chris Holifield recounts last week's 'The Power of Caribbean Poetry' conference at Homerton College, Cambridge.
As well as providing an academic focus on poetry from the Caribbean, last week's The Power of Caribbean Poetry at Homerton College, Cambridge, was a joyous celebration of the work of a great many fine poets. I was lucky enough to spend a day there and to hear from some of the poets who had been invited to the conference by Morag Styles, Professor of Children's Poetry, and her colleagues.
The great Caribbean poet Olive Senior gave the opening keynote speech on Friday. Speaking movingly about how to introduce poetry to students, she emphasised the importance of asking them whether they liked a poem, encouraging them to respond emotionally in the first instance, before going on to analyse the work. She said that ‘poetry should remain a magical, haunting experience' and ‘music for the ear'. Poetry should be taught in schools because ‘it is part of life'.
Some stimulating academic papers were delivered, then another keynote from Christian Campbell, whose first collection Running the Dusk won the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize in 2010. Campbell delivered an impassioned plea for poetry's place in the fight for freedom. Poetry provides ‘a free space' for ‘reaching into the unknown'.
Celebrating his sixtieth birthday at the conference and honouring it by his presence, the great Linton Kwesi Johnson, often called ‘the father of dub poetry' talked about his friend the poet Michael Smith, mourning his tragically early death.
More papers held our attention in the afternoon, followed by a brilliant reading by Kei Miller, who read some work from A Light Song of Light and some new poems from his forthcoming collection. This was a poet who truly held the audience in the palm of his hand.Sadly I missed the no doubt wonderful late evening reading by John Agard and friends Anthony Joseph, John Lyons and Mark McWatt, but reflected happily on an inspiring day of Caribbean poetry as I took a late train back to London.
Chris Holifield is the Director of the Poetry Book Society and co-founder of www.writersservices.com.
Categories: Poetry News