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Ralph Thompson Takes Words for a Walk

Dr. Michael Bucknor (left) and Ralph Thompson

The Phillip Sherlock Centre played home to the launch of Ralph Thompson’s latest collection of poetry, Talking Words for A Walk. The launch event was a part of a roster of book activities being staged by the Department of Literatures in English, UWI, Mona for March, which has been dubbed Literatures in English Month. The month long calendar had been kicked off in partnership with the Kingston Book Festival with Love Affair With Literature II.

“Some how I can’t keep the word venerable from my mind as I share the stage with these two elder statesmen of the word,” said Michael Bucknor, head of the Dept of Literatures in English as he brought greetings.  

Prof Mervyn MorrisThe first of these “venerable” men was Professor Mervyn Morris, who delivered a comprehensive introduction to Thompson’s poetry. Morris provided a window through which the audience could glean a clear understanding of Taking Words for a Walk.  Morris described Thompson as a storyteller and a commentator, a lover of word play and in possession of strong ironic wit.

Thompson’s reading conveyed it all.

“My poetry has always felt a home at UWI,” Thompson said, explaining that his earlier work View From Mount Diablo had been taught for a semester on the campus. Thompson began his reading with ‘Rainforest House’ followed by ‘That Time of Day’ both of which looked at Jamaica’s flora.

“Unfortunately, life in Jamaica is not all beautiful landscapes. There is a violence hear that is endemic,” Thompson said, pointing to the beheadings, murdered children and coffins buried in a hail of bullets and other violent acts that drip from the nation’s bloody headlines. With that he introduced his third poem ‘Prologue’.Ralph Thompson

The darker tone continued with ‘Jamaican Gothic’, a startling commentary on race relations in Jamaica. Before reading the poem, Thompson described it as one of those pieces which treat with the racial issues that a poet, especially a white poet in a black country, must deal with.

The wonderfully witty and ironic ‘Lift Off (For Eddie Baugh)’ followed. The poem explored the journey of old age in a metaphor likening old age to a jalopy careening uncontrollably down a slope and winding with the engaging line “who needs bifocals for beatific vision”.

Thompson ended the morning’s engaging reading with two final pieces ‘Silence’ and ‘It’s a Deal’.

The launch of Taking Words for a Walk took place on Sunday March 24, 2013 at 11:00 am.