BY THE BOOK: Baugh's latest, says Dr. Michael Bucknor, delivers a consistency of craft and concern.
"A reflection on the possibilities of poetry." That is precisely how Dr. Michael Bucknor summed up the appeal of Professor Edward Baugh's latest collection, Black Sand: New and Collected Poems (Peepal Tree Press), which was launched before an attentive audience this past Sunday morning inside UWI Mona's Neville Hall Lecture Theatre. Hailing Baugh as a creative risk-taker, Bucknor (current head of the university's Department of Literatures in English), insisted that Black Sand finds the writer traversing poetic roads never before taken.
"There's a range and breadth in this new collection; there's a poem for everyone," he emphasized during his eloquent presentation centred on what he dubbed the "nuances that glamour in the mist," while drawing attention to Baugh's consistency of craft and concern, not to mention an expert handling of dramatic monologue, elegy, tribute and cheeky humour. "The seeming ordinariness of Jamaican life is [the book's] main occupation," he continued, "the ability of poetry to shed light on our everyday realities."
When it was finally Baugh's turn to grace the microphone, appearing in fine health at age 77, his reading delivered all that we have come to expect -- oratorical precision and delightful wit -- as he recited such selections as "Nearly," "At Coventry," "Holy Fever," "The Ice-cream Man" and the prize-worthy "To The Editor Who Asked Me To Send Him Some of My Black Poems."
Earlier, Paula-Ann Porter-Jones paid lovely tribute to Baugh's legacy, reciting "Running River Water" and "There's a Brown Girl in the Ring"; Trio Ambiance (comprising musicians Rosina Moder on recorder, Peter Ashbourne on keys and percussionist Jeremy Ashbourne) did a tuneful suite of holiday and folk standards; and the dynamic Jean Small gave a moving interpretation of Baugh's "It Was the Singing."
By his own admission, Professor Baugh found the morning's proceedings, moderated by Carolyn Cooper, both entertaining and touching. "I never thought I'd live long enough to be so honoured," he confessed with characteristic modesty, "by the kind of artistic excellence that greeted me, and some of my favourite people performing."
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