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Double Dose of Poetry from Mervyn Morris

Jean Lowrie-Chin collects a signature from Mervyn Morris

At the dusk of his tenure as Poet Laureate of Jamaica, a tenure which began in May 2014 and came to an end May 2017, Professor Mervyn Morris gifted the world with a double dose of poetry. The first was his collected poems Peelin Orange (Carcanet Press) and the second the anthology of poems he selected, In This Breadfruit Kingdom (Blouse & Skirt Books / National Library of Jamaica). One captures almost 100 years of Jamaican poetry and the other 50 years of a poet's work. Both works had their Kingston launches within mere weeks of each other.

In This Breadfruit Kingdom is a part of the legacy from Morris’ tenure as Poet Laureate, coming from the poems featured in the weekly From Our Book Shelves created to celebrate and promote Jamaican poetry by publishing them weekly in The Gleaner. Incidentally, the anthology opens with a 'Reporting Back to Queen Isabella' by the poet who will take over the mantle of Poet Laureate of Jamaica, Lorna Goodison.

In This Breadfruit Kingdom features poetry from 63 Jamaican poets and poets who have lived in Jamaica, blending new and iconic voices. So along with Goodison, other well-known poets include Dennis Scott, Edward Baugh, H.D. Carberry, Olive Senior, Velma Pollard, Mutabaruka, and Oku Onuora. 

The anthology also benefits from some of the most prominent contemporary voices in Jamaican poetry including Kwame Dawes, Claudia Rankine, Tanya Shirley, Kei miller, and Ishion Hutchinson. New and lesser known voices are also represented, including Millicent Graham, Ann-Margaret Lim, Andrew Stone, Mel Cooke, Colin Channer, and Juleus Ghunta. 

At the launch, Dr. Michael Bucknor provided an insightful and enigmatic introduction to the anthology wherein he commended the anthology’s range of voices, themes, and genres. The launch event also featured stimulating readings by broadcaster Paula-Anne Porter Jones, actor Alwyn Scott, and poets Edward Baugh, Tanya Shirley and Mark McMorris.

Professor Baugh presented the introduction to Peelin Orange at that launch. He remarked, that unlike most ‘collected poems’ which pull the poems together in their original collections, Peelin Orange had rearranged the poems thematically allowing them to have new conversations with each other and create new meanings/interpretations in this volume.

Morris achieves the same feat, with his arrangements of the poems in In This Breadfruit Kingdom. While all the poems are previously published works, many of them have never previously been in the same volume and Morris arranges them to have conversations about history, memory, love, society, and migration.

Peelin Orange was launched by the Department of Literatures in English and the National Library of Jamaica at the Undercroft of the University of the West Indies on April 20, 2017.

In This Breadfruit Kingdom was launched at the Terra Nova Hotel on May 11, 2017.