You are here

Olive Senior’s The Pain Tree Brings Full Breadth of Concerns

Olive Senior reads from The Pain Tree

A sense of something monumental coloured the night air and energy flowed through the UWI, Mona’s undercroft recently, as renowned Jamaican author Olive Senior prepared to launch her 17th book, The Pain Tree, a collection of short stories. The launch was hosted by Carolyn Allen and would also feature the signature rhythms of the Akwaaba Drummers, welcoming the gathering and in particular the Canada-based Senior for the Jamaican unveiling of her most recent work.

The collection was officially launched by the university’s Dr. Anthea Morrison, who, in her analysis offered that The Pain Tree is rich with range as well as Senior’s established style and concerns. While illustrating and commenting on the author’s devotion to empowering the weak and giving the gift of narrative voice especially to children, Morrison also highlighted Senior’s inclination for endowing her characters with compassion.

Dr. Anthea Morrison (left) and Olive Senior at the launch of The Pain TreeWeaving her critique around the title story as well as ‘Silent’, ‘Flying’, ‘Coal’ and others, Morrison pulled on Senior’s attention to classism, history, the vulnerable, children lost and neglected, and their eventual rise and awakening.

Senior’s reading, which followed a detailed introduction by Allen, came without much preamble on her own part and would exemplify much of Morrison’s analysis. She read from ‘Coal’, which had, as its centre a boy having lost both his actual voice and a sense of himself due to a cycle of traumatizing childhood experiences. The moving, often sombre tale was reflective of the post-World War II era and illustrated its trying times as well as another of the writer’s interests, the burning of coal. Towards the end we find there is growth as well as hope and acknowledgement for the protagonist, where before there was neglect, a path Senior seems to tread frequently.Carolyn Allen hosted the launch of The Pain Tree

The collection, which has already been longlisted for the 2016 Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, houses the poet in Olive Senior, while showcasing rich wit and a wide range of concerns, approached from varying angles, times and voices.

The audience responded to the reading with fervent applause ahead of book presentations to the UWI and National Libraries, that would bring the historical event to a close.

Professor Edward Baugh (right) was among the members of Jamaica's literati who came out for the launchThe launch was a presentation of the UWI, Mona’s Department of Literatures in English as part of the department’s Literatures in English Month and the 2016 Kingston Book Festival.