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Another Heated Love Affair With Lit!
The Department of Literatures in English unsheathed another heated Love Affair With Literature to start off the 2015 edition of the Kingston Book Festival. With a quartet that Dr. Michael Bucknor, head of the department, described as the “venerable” professor and “three rising stars” of Caribbean literature, it was a morning of literary pleasures.
Love Affair With Literature 4 featured Professor Mervyn Morris, Poet Laureate of Jamaica, Roland Watson-Grant, Sharon Millar and Tanya Shirley. In his opening remarks, Bucknor, described the event as a case of “4 for 4”, and what a four it was. The audience at the Neville Hall Lecture theatre was treated to haunting prose and witty, insightful poetry.
“Every year we say it is a great slate of events but this year it really is,” said Kellie Magnus, festival chair. She laughingly pointed out that the department may have to look into changing the name of the event, because what they were presenting was starting to go beyond an affair.
The crisp eloquence of Professor Morris, occasionally punctuated by his witty insights, opened the morning of readings. Prof Morris moved easily between three of his collections of poetry, I Been There, Sort Of, Examination Centre and The Pond. His reading opened with ‘Mariners’ and moved on to include ‘Short Story’, ‘Peelin Orange’, ‘Eve’, ‘Version’, ‘Casanova’, ‘Departure Lounge’ and ‘A Chant Against Death (for Aiden and Ruth).
The two prose writers were sandwiched between the poets, who would bookend the event. novelist and short story writer Roland Watson-Grant was the first to the podium. Watson-Grant read from his sophomore novel Skid, the sequel to Sketcher. The excerpt from Skid, outlining a prayer warrior “ambush” provided a humourous start to Watson-Grant’s reading.
The tone shifted dramatically, however, with his second piece, the short story ‘Cursing Mrs. Murphy’. It was a haunting story made easier to swallow through the ample sprinkling of Watson-Grant’s humour, which was still present in the dark tale. The story brought into sharp focus the ways in which personal tragedies become public discourse.
Sharon Millar, 2013 winner of the Commonwealth Short Story prize, was the next to the stage. The Trinidadian writer, whose first collection The Whale House and Other Stories will be published later this year, read a new short story ‘Spelunking’.
‘Spelunking’ proved is an engrossing tale that meanders beautifully. The story pulls you along at what initially appears to be a languid pace, until you realize that you are actually traversing emotionally tumultuous terrain.
The audience having sat quietly enraptured during Millar’s reading burst into applause when she ended.
Poet Tanya Shirley brought the morning to a dynamic and satisfying close reading from her two collections: She Who Sleeps With Bones and Merchant of Feathers. Shirley’s selection eloquently demonstrated her combination of keen wit, deep insight and an often refreshing perspective.
Shirley opened her set with ‘My Christian Friend’ and her reading included ‘Spell #1”, ‘On the Other Side of Madness’ and ‘Mattie Shall Not Conquer’. She ended with a poem she described as “hot off the press” the hilarious ‘Don’t Let the Fluffy Fool You!’
Love Affair With Literature took place at the Neville Hall Lecture Theatre, University of the West Indies, Mona on Sunday, March 1, 2015 at 11:00 am.
The 2015 Kingston Book Festival is organized by the Book Industry Association of Jamaica and features 24 events taking place across the city under the theme, Opening Doors. It culminates with the Kingston Book Fair at Devon House on Saturday, March 7, 2015.