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Edward Baugh Mines Black Sand at UWI Mona

Edward Baugh at the launch of Black Sands

Given the indelible footprints that Professor Baugh has tracked over the University of the West Indies campus, prints pressed into the minds of the numerous students who passed through his classes, it was not surprising that the launch of his third collection of poetry, Black Sand: New and Selected Poems, was hosted by the institution’s Department of Literatures in English in collaboration with the West Indian Association of Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies.

It was a morning of eloquence as even the would be prose pieces that served as introductory statements, themselves waxed of the poetic. The effervescent Tanya Shirley, herself a poet delivered a delightful introduction of Dr. Michael Bucknor, the man who had been tasked to introduce the audience to Black Sand.

Poet Tanya Shirley waxes lyrical on the merits of Michael Bucknor“No dibbi-dibbi person could introduce Professor Baugh’s Black Sand,” declared Shirley as she proceeded to outline the many layers of academic achievement that made Bucknor suitable. Apparently, his currently tenure as Head of the Dept of Literatures was not enough.

“Like a good preacher, he has been ordained to do this work,” Shirley said.

And though he suggested that it would be hard to live up to Shirley’s high praise, Bucknor presented a insightful lens through which to view, understand and anticipate Baugh’s poetry. Himself a gifted man of words, Bucknor uncovered the imagery, method and meaning of Baugh’s poetry using the title poem as the piece upon which to build the foundation.

Bucknor highlighted, that Baugh’s poetry illuminates the aspects of Jamaican life that “glamour would miss”. He explained that although it is the white sand that graces the pages of tourism brochures, there is beauty in the black sand, in the ordinary, describing Baugh’s work as having a “poetics of the unnoticed”.

Broadcaster Paula Ann Porter Jones delivers Baugh's early poetry“It screens the landscape that is not in the lime light,” Bucknor explained. He also pointed out that the title poem was also about the possibilities within poetry if it focuses on the marginal, the forgotten, the unnoticed. He remarked that poetry of Black Sand display great breadth exploring love, loss, journeys, memory, art and reflections on family and life.

The task of highlighting Baugh’s earlier poetry, some of which is also included in Black Sands, fell to broadcaster Paula Ann Porter and dramatist Jean Small who delivered pieces from the collections It Was the Singing and A Tale from the Rainforest. Their readings were bracketed by performances from Trio Ambiance: Rosina Christina Moder, Peter Ashbourne and Jeremy Ashbourne.

Having been so well introduced, when he took to the podium, Prof. Baugh allowed his poems to do most of the talking, keeping the banter between them brief. He opened with ‘I Wish You a Leaf Falling’ before turning to ‘Holy Fever’ and ‘At Coventry’.
Dr. Michael Bucknor (foreground) and Eddie Baugh
Baugh’s reading highlighted the diversity of which Bucknor had spoken earlier. In ‘Choices’ he explored immigration while the ingenuity of the vendor was underscored in ‘The Ice Cream Man’. With ‘To the Editor Who Asked Me to Send Him Some of My Black Poems’ he outlined his wit while poking fun at the politics and polemics of race.

With ‘A 19th Century Portrait’ Baugh explored history before turning into how stories that then become history are crafted with ‘Amadou’s Mother’. His questioning of history continued with ‘Monumental Man’ an intriguing look at George Washington who made dentures from ivory and the teeth of his slaves.
Prof Carolyn Cooper delivers the vote of thanks
Baugh also delivered several pieces that danced with death including ‘For Attention’, ‘The Listening Dead’, and ‘Guinea Hen Weed’. He closed the wonderful slate of readings with ‘Obituary Page’ a witty piece remarking on the ways in which we attempt to wrap ideas of death on the obituary page.

“So listen me now/ when my time come/ just tell them other one for me, Mavis dead,” Baugh read, a striking note on which to end the morning.