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The Literary Love Continues: Love Affair With Literature 5
In the beginning was the word, and the word was loved. So, once again lovers of the literary heeded the call and streamed into the Neville Hall Lecture Theatre to share in yet another Love Affair With Literature, the opening event of the 2016 Kingston Book Festival. Five years in the making, this affair has bloomed into a lasting and strong relationship for the literary minded, each year presenting an intriguing blend of Caribbean fiction and poetry.
Staged by the Department of Literatures in English, and hosted by the charming and witty poet, Tanya Shirley, this year’s edition featured novelist A-dZiko Simba Gegele, journalist and poet Mel Cooke, celebrated author and poet Olive Senior, and poet Vladimir Lucien, who has quickly vaulted from being an emerging to established voice in the Caribbean.
The morning’s readings opened with Simba Gegele who had the audience laughing along as she read from her award-winning debut, young adult novel All Over Again.
An expressive and enigmatic reader, Simba Gegele delivered two excerpts from the novel, centred around its protagonist’s challenges with two of the women in his life. First she chronicled the hilarious disaster of the protagonist, for him and his umbrella, of taking his six year-old sister to school in the rain. The second, touching yet, funny scene, described the trauma of taking home a disappointing report card to his mother.
Simba Gegele was followed to the stage by Mel Cooke, who brought the morning’s first serving of poetry. Cooke delved into the linguistic, class, racial and sexual politics that mushroom over the island. He opened with the poem ‘Word Terrorist’ which, though originally aimed at the George W. Bush administration, he noted becomes once again relevant in the face of Donald Trump’s bid for the White House.
Cooke then went on to read ‘Straight Straight’ an exploration of language through the curves and turns of the St. Andrew hills. Cooke’s set also included his look at the Tivoli Incursion with, ‘Malapropism’, as well as ‘Banana Stain’ and ‘Blood Stain’ poems about race and sexuality.
Olive Senior brought with her a mixture of prose and poetry. She opened her reading with a nod to host Tanya Shirley’s reminder that love and money are often intertwined. Pulling from her collection Gardening in the Tropics, she delivered ‘Love in the Tropics’ a poem of profound simplicity that as she said, explores “the nexus between love and money.”
It was then time to turn to the environment as she read ‘Rejected Text for a Tourist Brochure’ from the collection over the roofs of the world, and a new piece ‘Dead Straight’ which speaks to how the new highways have stripped away much of the magic of travel with dead straight roads replacing the undulating turns. Senior closed the session with a hilarious taste of her new collection of short stories The Pain Tree, which introduced us to the intricate class and sexual politics of eating pepper.
The lyrical, rich poetry of Vladimir Lucien brought the morning to a close.
“I going to do two new poems as well, I have to show the people who give me Writer in Residence that I’ve been working,” he said to the amused audience. He opened with the first of these ‘Evening’ before delving into his award-winning debut collection Sounding Ground. Lucien’s reading included the haunting ‘Protean’ delivered in both Kweol and English, the hilarious ‘Declaration’ and the bitter-sweet ‘My Grandmother’s Mind’.
He closed with ‘Horn’ its sequel ‘Putting up a Resistance’ and finally, the hilarious yet poignant ‘Circle, bringing a satisfying end to a morning of diverse readings from a quartet of accomplished writers, presenting intriguingly different views of the Caribbean.
Love Affair With Literature 2016, took place at the Neville Hall Lecture Theatre, University of the West Indies, Mona, on Sunday, March 6, 2016. The Kingston Book Festival continues through to Saturday, March 12, 2016. The week of events will include the Launch of Olive Senior’s The Pain Tree, Thursday, March 10 at 6:00 pm (at the University) and Late Night Lit Thursday, March 10 at 8:54 pm, at Redbones the Blues Cafe. The Kingston Book Fair brings the festival to a close on Saturday, March 12, 2016, at Devon House.